The importance of customer service
A Homebase case study

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Page 5: Empowering staff to plan and do

Empowerment is the process of giving greater responsibility to everyone that works for an organisation - it literally means giving power to make decisions. Empowering members of an organisation is a tremendous motivational tool because they feel that they are contributing, through their own initiative, to improving performance and achieving better results.

Homebase employs a teamwork approach in which everyone counts and adds value to their team. All employees are given an opportunity to voice their ideas and opinions. At Homebase employees are organised into teams with a team leader. Team meetings are held on a regular basis called 'huddles'. Huddles frequently involve team building exercises and fun activities such as quizzes and competitions (such as trolley dashes to locate stock in a store).

In addition the huddle is a way of encouraging everyone to contribute to developing ideas for improving processes within the business. For example, the team leader may identify an area of weakness that has come to light as a result of a visit by a Mystery Shopper or from the customer satisfaction survey. The team leader might read out comment cards or relay verbal comments. Individuals are then invited to suggest ways of improving customer service in the coming week. Team members are encouraged to suggest ideas for a range of ways to improve business such as how to improve sales, and general processes.

Senior managers at Homebase recognise the importance of empowerment because grassroots employees are best placed to understand and be able to respond to the needs of customers at a local level - for example by being able to cater for regional differences. Empowering staff involves encouraging employees to make appropriate 'on-the-spot' decisions such as offering to help a customer take and unload a trolley of goods to their car, or replacing product labels on products when they are missing (without having to wait to be told what to do).

The general philosophy of Homebase's teamwork approach for employees is called 'I make a difference' and is that they should:

  • take personal responsibility
  • have a 'can do attitude'
  • if something isn't right, do something about it - don't leave it to someone else
  • confidently own every situation and deal with it
  • give praise and recognise everyone's contribution.

In addition staff may receive one of the Homebase Recognition Awards. These are awarded to staff for going above and beyond the call of duty in delivering customer service and living the values, the awards are bronze - star, silver - hero and gold - legend, which is the ultimate achievement with only 16 gold awards across the entire company, each award winner receives a certificate, limited edition pin badges and leisure vouchers which can be used in a variety of outlets.

Empowered employees have much higher levels of motivation, they enjoy their work, and their loyalty to and pride in Homebase is enhanced. Highly motivated employees in turn will help the organisation to achieve its objective of putting the customer first.

Of course, as a business, Homebase is best placed to create the high financial returns that shareholders in the company are looking for. This inter-relationship between people, processes and products to the benefit of the customer is illustrated by the Homebase Roadmap.

Homebase | The importance of customer service