Thu, 28 Feb 2019
Newbury Building Society is continuing its drive to provide the best customer service it can, with the creation of a new executive role.
In January, it appointed Melanie Mildenhall head of customer service, as it starts the year with big plans for the future.
Born in Farnborough, Hampshire, Melanie moved to Newbury with her family when she was two-years-old.
She attended St Bartholomew’s School and following her GCSEs, took A-levels in geography, English and food and nutrition.
After school, she attended the University of Birmingham, gaining a BA Hons degree in geography, before returning to her home town of Newbury.
She spent a brief spell working with Southern Electric, where her father worked and where she met her now husband.
Then, in 1994, as a 22-year-old graduate, Melanie joined Newbury Building Society and now in her 25th year there, she finds herself on the executive team in a role that she can’t wait to get her teeth into.
When Melanie joined the building society, she worked as a customer service assistant in the mortgage completions team.
From there she moved to the Wokingham branch, as assistant manager, where she spent the next 18 months.
During her time at Wokingham, Melanie led the team to achieve the coveted Branch of the Year award, which the society presents annually to the best overall performing branch.
She also undertook a rather interesting challenge, to support the society’s charity of choice at that time, Barnardo’s.
She was one of two members of the branch team to rollerblade all the way from the Newbury head office to the Wokingham branch – a distance of around 30 miles.
She has continued to help raise money for a variety of charities since then, including taking part in the society’s recent Mortgage Sleep Out, in aid of End Youth Homelessness, and Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which she and her sister, daughter and niece are planning to run annually in memory of her father.
From Wokingham, Melanie, who lives in Newbury with her family, accepted an administration manager role covering the Society’s Abingdon and Didcot branches.
She spent 18 months there and then returned to head office in a sales process management role, before becoming the marketing manager in 2001.
Melanie spent the next five years in marketing, before taking maternity leave in 2006 when she had her first child.
She says she was lucky enough to be able to take a full year off with her daughter, returning in 2007 as the customer services manager, heading up the mortgage underwriting and savings and mortgage customer support teams.
The following year she had another career break when she had her second child, a son, before returning to work in 2009 in the same role.
“Three years ago I added the branch network to my responsibilities and became operations manager,” she explains.
“At this time, our strong mortgage growth demanded a change in structure to further enhance the service we give mortgage intermediaries and prospective mortgage borrowers.
“As part of those changes, I handed over the mortgage underwriting team to the then mortgage underwriting manager.
“However, my remit has continued to grow and two years ago, I was excited to take responsibility for the Business Change Delivery team.
“Suddenly I realised I was responsible for about half of the employees in the business.”
Clearly Melanie was proving she was more than capable of handling that level of responsibility because in January she was promoted and became the first person appointed to the newly-created role of head of customer service.
This position also sees her join the executive team, which sets the strategic direction of the society.
“Newbury Building Society has always had an excellent reputation for customer service,” she says.
“But as other banks and building societies raise their standards, it is important that we continue to ask our customers what they want and improve what we do, so that we put ourselves as the financial services provider of choice in our local operating area.
“Although our executive team has always made sure our members are at the heart of everything we do, the addition of a head of customer service reaffirms our commitment to this and gives our members a voice at the highest level.”
As head of customer service, Melanie will be instrumental in continuing to build on the customer-focused approach the Society is recognised for and will lead on new initiatives such as updating and refreshing the branch network and improving the use of
technology in customer interactions.
A key partnership in recent years has been with the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), an independent body which helps organisations improve their customers’ experience and business performance.
“The ICS carried out an independent survey for us in early 2017 which gave us a benchmark to then put in a plan to enhance customer experience,” Melanie says.
“We were really pleased with our results.
“Even though satisfaction and advocacy scores were very high, we took on board comments about branch environment and technology and these are firmly embedded in our plans for the next two to three years.
“We have just re-run the survey and are eagerly awaiting the results.”
The society has also joined forces with Smart Money People, a ratings organisation where customers can leave feedback and score the service they received.
One of the larger projects for Melanie this year is the new branch concept.
“We have been working on a concept design, which we are planning to put into one of our branches this year,” she explains.
“It will improve the look and feel of the branches as well as employing some technology to enhance the service our teams provide.
“We firmly believe in our branches and the service they offer our communities.
“The new design is about modernising and offering more choice to customers, while maintaining our personalised approach.
“Our customers have fed back to us that they like the chairs we have at our counters so they will definitely be staying.”
The society has set up a digital advisory panel, which will advise on the potential options for technology going forward, however a more immediate technological solution is being delivered in the next few months – a video advice service.
Customers will be able to speak to an adviser in branch from home or will still be able to access the same service face-to-face in branch or on the phone.
“I have been here 25 years this year and I cannot believe how quickly it has gone,” Melanie muses.
“The society is a great place to be employed.
“I am lucky to work with an excellent bunch of people who share the same values as me and I like that I now have the chance to influence the direction of the society with a real customer focus.”