“Our business is all about bringing learning outside the classroom to life, and providing unforgettable educational trips for young people,” explains WST Travel’s customer relations director Sian Belfield. “Customer service has always been a huge priority for us.”
WST Travel is a Blackpool-based educational tour operator that organises trips for over 24,000 school children each year. These range from English and drama trips to London’s West End, to modern language visits to France, and historical tours of New York and Washington.
The business is part of the Next Generation Travel Group and began working with the Centre for Assessment in 2012, achieving its first Customer Service Excellence (CSE) accreditation a year later. The standard is designed to drive continuous improvement, allowing teams and individuals to explore new ways of improving customer-focussed delivery.
“CSE has given us something against which we can benchmark our own services,” explains Belfield. It’s now become engrained in our corporate culture.”
Since achieving CSE, WST has consistently been voted market leader in the Youth Travel Awards for Customer Service, and regularly scoops the Best School Tour Operator accolade at the School Travel Awards.
“In our market place we are the only brand to hold the CSE accreditation, so that helps us stand out,” she continues. “It also allows our client-facing teams to demonstrate that we don’t just talk about fantastic service, we really do deliver it, too.”
She also believes that working with the same CfA assessor Andrew Mackey has also been a huge benefit. “He always encourages us to think wider, bigger and better too, while remaining true to our core values,” she says.
CSE also helped with the recent merger of WST with two other travel companies, Anglia Tours and FHT Group Tours, by providing a framework that allowed the amalgamation of separate policies and procedures into one set of operating values.
But for Belfield, it has been the reaction of staff to CSE that has surprised her most. “They love it when the assessor comes in,” she says. “It gives them an opportunity to talk about what they do and why they do it. I’m always bowled over by the buzz this creates – everyone is so eager to talk about how they’re part of a company that really does put the customer at the heart of everything it does.
“It is also an opportunity for them to be recognised by an external, independent body. Our teams build brilliant relationships with colleagues, customers and suppliers and when an external auditor witnesses this at first-hand, and commends this passion, trust and professionalism, it creates a huge ripple of pride across the whole business.”