Greg Reed had never heard of HomeServe before he joined.
Now he claims to have the best job in the world. During his time with the company they were hit with a £30 million fee for mis-selling, had a complete change of management and the business has reinvented itself in a remarkable way with a focus on people.
Have a listen to our chat below, keep reading for a summary and don’t forget to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
Talk us through the steps that you took to turn around the business of HomeServe?
The first thing that we did was just not selling any more, it was a good symbol to everyone that something was going to change. From there, my boss, Martin Bennett, myself and a few others, sat down and we looked at whether we were really going to be a company that was about its people who wanted to create a great environment for customers off the back of that. How were we going to rebuild the credibility of the company for the staff, because the staff felt incredibly let down and betrayed. So the first thing we did was we looked at our products and things that we didn’t think were core to what we did, like Legal Cover, we just cancelled those products and gave up some income. And some other products, we thought maybe they were too expensive.One product we cut the price in half and we fixed the value.
The biggest thing we did was we looked at, as an insurance company, every time we told the customer, “no,” was there a reason for that. Martin and I had a belief that on a product that was discretionary, any time we told a customer, “no,” it would destroy value. So we went and we changed everything about the way the products were built.
One of the things that the FCA is pleased about is the fact that our claims rate has doubled over the past four years. We go out twice as much as we used to with a similar amount of customers. So the customers are getting a lot more value out of the product than they used to. Once we had that credibility established with the staff, we told them how we wanted customers to be dealt with. That when you’re on the phone with a customer and if there’s something else that you want to do, then you should do it. And I think the staff reacted to that with “That’s nice, but we’re not sure that you mean it.”
What is the “People Promise”?
Our customer promise came first. We trained staff talking to customers in a workshop session. Once there was credibility, we could go back out and really create something special for the people promises. They are similar to things that you would see in any other company when you have these type of commitments – “Dare to care, do the right thing, own it, always improve, win together, trust each other”. Then what we’ve done through the communication (like Yammer), is given people the ability to talk about these things, and that’s how we recognize and congratulate each other. It’s also how we criticize each other. We have a reward and recognition system. I sent one to an engineer today for £50 for ‘owning it’ because I had been involved in a complaint. It ended up being the Gas Board’s issue, but the engineer, instead of just saying, “Call the Gas Board,” he called the Gas Board and had them fix their stuff. When they stop and the take the time like that with a customer, it’s great to have a way to say, “Thank you for owning that”. The way we’ve set it up (without being abused by frauds) is anyone can send anyone out one of these.
Did you take any specific measures to attract talent?
On the staff side, we decided to focus on Glassdoor. We actively encourage our staff because we think that they love working here, we can tell from our engagement score and from our staff attrition, we know how they feel about working here. So take the dare and encourage lots of them to go online and talk about the company in an anonymous review. We’ve put messages on the big message boards around. We’ve put messages on everyone’s desktop. You do get bad reviews, but you get good reviews, and the good reviews tell a story because it’s consistent and detailed. The same things come up like the staff will mention customer first as one of the benefits, which I’m particularly proud of. You will get the same cons, the same types of things you would get in a big front-line business like ours because some people aren’t going to enjoy it, but one of the things that’s really important for us is that we are very open in public about addressing the cons, or giving context about why they are that way.
What other companies inspire you in terms of culture and employer brand?
When I look at companies that I admire, they are the ones who have a consistent strategy. It’s very apparent what they’re doing because I think that is really critical for the staff to be engaged in what they’re doing. If you’re one of these companies who has a customer-facing brand, and then you have an employer brand that’s different, I think you’re living two lives. In today’s age when the staff and millennials are doing so much research, it’s so hard to understand companies, and that two-faced nature will kill you. I looked at Amazon, and despite not allegedly being a great place to work. Their focus on the customer pervades everything they do. I think people do like working there because they like that idea. It’s the same thing for someone like Apple or John Lewis, you really feel when you talk to someone in John Lewis compared to another department store, that they will figure out a way to try to get you what you want. It’s that little extra bit that can really make a difference. I look for consistency in the brand, especially in a service brand. For the staff to be able to deliver that consumer-facing brand that becomes the employer brand – they’re all intertwined.
Follow Greg on Twitter @MGregoryReed.