Customer service training in the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector

The VCSE sector in the UK has undergone a radical shift in the past two years, brought on by the pace of change, the national political agenda and the need to be able to meet the reality of tough economic conditions. It has moved into being well placed and supported by Government policy to play a greater role in shaping the reform of the public sector and taking on a larger role in the delivery of traditionally public sector services. The funding landscape has therefore changed dramatically for VCSEs, in line with changes to central and local government priorities and budgets, moving from a grants-based approach to formal contracts, competitive tendering and procurement.

Being a sector that is fit for purpose – be it not-for-profit or trading with charitable aims – needs a shift in thinking to successfully navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead. It involves making sure that those who work in the sector have the necessary capabilities to deliver services skilfully and at an exemplary level with customers. A sizeable proportion of these individuals are those who traditionally are public service users and customers with challenging and complex circumstances.

The most recent (2015) State of the Sector report shows that the next five years will require joined-up and targeted work from local public and social sector agencies. The report also notes that while the public sector is still an important market – 59% of social enterprises do some business with the public sector – more social enterprises are now trading with the general public (for 30% it is their primary source of income).

One of the key recommendations of the 2105 report is that staff learning programmes need to focus less on the individual entrepreneur and more on technical skills and talent areas in which social enterprises themselves say they are lacking. Critically, exceptional customer service skills is at the heart of this because VCSE organisations are being challenged to engage with new customers with higher expectations. VCSEs need to move quickly to important, relationship-focused service provision, which is underpinned by the need for customer relationship excellence.

Our thanks to Amanda for writing this page.

Amanda is our practice lead for the VCSE sector. She worked in front line, management and leadership positions in the VCSE sector at local and national level, including two assistant directorships. After 15 years of enjoying these roles and responsibilities, Amanda set up her own business in 2001. She continues to volunteer in her spare time with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and is currently Chair of the Board and Director of a Community Interest Company which provides enterprise support for the SE Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), and for which she delivers resilience and other soft skills training for SEs. Amanda also facilitates away days with Boards of directors/trustees using her personal and professional experience; she is currently supporting two UK CIOs through BIG funded sustainability grant schemes.

Her clients in this area include a wide range of organisations, particularly but by no means exclusively in the south east, such as SFEDI Awards, IOEE, Black Sheep CIC, Social Enterprise South East, Horizons CIC, Surrey Community Action, Different Strokes, YMCA, the Social Business Alliance, etc, etc.

Some of our other trainers are also very experienced in the VCSE sector.

If you’d like a chat with any of our trainers to discuss your customer service training requirements, do please give us a call on 01582 714285 and we’d be delighted to arrange it for you.