White Space helps British Gas to make best of digital custom

02 June 2017 Consultancy.uk

White Space worked closely with British Gas to draw up the innovative online-services platform Local Heroes, which launched in 2016.

As markets across the world continue to witness increasing digitalisation across all fields, with customer service innovation in particular becoming increasingly essential to hanging on to tech-savvy consumers, the consulting industry has become a key ally to businesses looking to modernise their strategies in the digital era. While small and medium sized enterprises have been reluctant to access this pool of expertise, a broad coalition of large industries including the banking and energy sectors stand to benefit from accessing the professional services industry.

Local Heroes, a recent British Gas venture, provides customers with access to on-demand home services from trusted local tradesmen. The new wing of the energy provider’s operations was built and launched in order to seize a growing consumer trend towards online booking for instant service provision. Local Heroes provides customers with a web-based reservation interface, recommending nearby tradespeople with a transparent price – while further backing trust in its partners by offering users a 12 month British Gas guarantee.

White Space helps British Gas to make best of digital custom

Market analysis supported by White Space

White Space, a strategy and management consulting firm  was central in the development of the Local Heroes project, in the build up to its 2016 launch. Becoming involved at the start of the project’s nine month gestation the organisation were asked by British Gas to examine on-demand market statistics and use the data to help devise an effective proposition and strategy for the development of new digital interfaces.

The subsequent market analysis from the professional services firm allowed British Gas to begin piloting the Local Heroes concept, and while the project has only been running for nine months, feedback from customers has been largely positive, with the test-run recording a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 65. Currently the service is available across 16% of the UK, with plans to ramp up the nationwide roll-out over the next 6 months.

Most recently in May, Local Heroes launched across the Glasgow area, a key locale as Scottish Gas, British Gas’ devolved brand north of the border, emulating other successful roll-outs in areas such as the West-Midlands, along with now-established services in Leeds, Brighton and Croydon – where the scheme recorded its very first repair after last year’s launch.

Commenting on the collaboration with White Space, Commercial Head of British Gas Mat Moakes said they had found the analysis by the consulting firm fundamental in their decision-making process. He stated, “White Space were able to help us analyse the on-demand market, and how we could make the existing business better. Once you drilled down into the detail we thought it would be much easier to start again and create something completely different and build it around the dynamics of the customers in the market. That’s exactly what we did, and Local Heroes was born!”

White Space has also supported the growth of over 100 major companies, meanwhile, with the Oxford-based consulting firm helping its clients achieve combined revenues of over £650 billion.

In each case, the firm boasts a custom evaluation process, tailoring strategies by gaining a deep understanding of issues through data analysis, along with considering challenges and dilemmas clients have faced, before utilising the collected intelligence to identify the best courses of action.

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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.