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State Rail Authority of N.S.W., Australia

A Live Mentoring Case Study II


The Sydney 2000 Olympics - Customer Service Buddy Program

The Olympic Workforce Allocation Unit (OWAU), the group who planned and delivered rail transport for the Olympics, recognised and understood the success of the State Rail mentoring program. Their issue was to find a way that the existing mentoring network could contribute to the induction and integration of the estimated 800 additional temporary Olympic staff. The Growth Connection suggested an approach to build on the existing mentor network that focused on the short term but critical need to upskill the casual Olympic staff.

The additional Olympic staff were required to:

  • fit in seamlessly with the existing staff on City Rail stations
  • be familiar with SRA culture/customer service philosophy/mentoring behaviours and stations logistics
  • apply basic customer service and technical skills in Olympic duties
  • be able to function competently in difficult situations
  • be excited, enthusiastic, and motivated to contribute.

Key aims of the Customer Service Program developed with the Manager, Business Improvement were to:

  • build on existing skills/training and Olympic materials
  • optimise cost/benefit potential
  • start early to avoid overloading Station staff
  • minimise operational and overtime impact of training
  • create high performing teams delivering essential services
  • assist with future succession planning and recruitment pool.

Why Have A Buddy System ?

Time was critical, the numbers large, and the additional staff were temporary. The latter meant that they did not require long term support, but instead "just in time" assistance and advice on the job. It made sense to utilise the mentors' enthusiasm and experience. The solution - a Customer Service Buddy Program that added value to the existing mentoring network and built on their existing skills.

How Did The Growth Connection Do It ?

Customer Service Buddy Program

Customer Service Buddy Program - Olympic Stations

  Fifty volunteer mentors attended one-day coaching skills training in May and June. This training also refreshed the mentors in the principles of customer service. The mentors were provided with kits to take back to the stations to assist with their coaching of staff selected to be Customer Service Buddies. They coached the Customer Service Buddies on the job in how to answer questions, demonstrate job skills, and role model positive attitudes and behaviours.

The additional Olympic staff attended induction training at Australian Rail Training prior to beginning in their new role. Amongst the safety and security training, OH&S and fire awareness, one workshop (either a half day or a day) was conducted by The Growth Connection. This workshop (usually at the end of the Olympic specific training) focused on the values and vision of State Rail, the Olympics task, the Customer Service Buddy Program and customer service skills. The workshops were very well received by participants and contributed to their motivation and positive attitude as they arrived on the stations.

Additional Olympic staff were assigned a specific Customer Service Buddy for their first five shifts. After their first roster, the additional Olympic staff were able to access all or any of the Customer Service Buddies with whom they worked. In conjunction with other station staff and management, the Customer Service Buddies were responsible for assisting new staff to settle in and 'learn the ropes'. The common element at every station was the Customer Service Buddies' approach and their patient, on-going support and advice.

What Were The Outcomes ?

The Customer Service Buddy Program was an outstanding success recognised by State Rail management, Olympic visitors and media around the world who all praised the friendliness and helpful, efficient service provided on stations. The culture at State Rail became one that valued teamwork, the sharing of information and skills, and mateship and grew out of the mentoring program. The success of the Customer Service Buddy Program reflected the essence of the new culture, developing the coaching skills of the mentors and Customer Service Buddies, in addition to effectively integrating new temporary staff and focusing all involved on customer service excellence.

The Customer Service Buddy concept was simple and built on existing resources. Its implementation was carefully planned and executed. This resulted in another win for mentoring - an Olympic effort that delivered for State Rail and its customers.

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