Archive for the ‘News and Features’ Category

Over the past three months we have been working with Electricity North West to help improve performance in their corporate telephone contact centre.

Electricity North West owns, operates and maintains the North West’s electricity distribution network, connecting 2.4 million properties, and more than 5 million people in the region to the National Grid.

Working with management and staff in the centre, we have provided training to improve telephone skills, improve communication, reduce stress and enhance customer service.

The staff have been very positive and have fully engaged in the programme, which has already seen improvements in call-handling.

Kath Jones, the contact centre’s Quality Analyst, describes how the training has helped the company – and their customers.


We are pleased to have been selected to provide communication, telephone skills and customer service training for Electricity North West at their corporate contact centre based in Warrington.

Electricity North West owns, operates and maintains the North West’s electricity distribution network, connecting 2.4 million properties, and more than 5 million people in the region to the National Grid.

A worthwhile project in which two business networking colleagues are involved – Dale Slinger and Marek Niedzwiedz.

Here is a little about the project.

In the winter of 2011, a lecturer at our university of ASBIRO Rev. Jacek ( invited us to visit him in Africa. We were there for over a month and the time we spent together allowed us to get to know each other better and to become friends. During the journey of thousands of kilometres together we exchanged different views and plans for development. It so happened that we had common plans. We were talking about our investment plans in Russia and the Ukraine and Jacek was talking about his Parish that he had recently been allocated the care of.

Not everyone knows that priests in Africa are different people to these here at home. Imagine that in each parish there is a company with between 10 and 100 people employed. At almost each parish there is a nursery school, school, internet coffee, canteen, hotel and sometimes even a farm, pool or brick factory. Each of them is a well organised company thanks to which a parish can afford to finance orphanages or hospitals.

Jacek became the rector of the parish that had been a side chapel of another parish. The property consists off a small church, 2 acres of grass and a few trees. It’s located in the capital of Zambia- Lusaka, and in one of the poorest areas –Linda.

Jacek has spent more than 20 years in Africa where he initiated a lot of ventures. His interest in conomics drove him into education. His development plans for the parish included building a

nursery school, one of which he had already run in Botswana, next a primary school ,both of which are educational ventures. For a couple of years he followed the development of ASBIRO and clearly expressed that as a supporter of The Austrian School of Economics he foresees the same sort of education in his school.

What’s left to us to do is to combine the idea of building a school in Africa with the existing ASBIRO model and principles. Our goal is to help build an education complex on the existing ground of Jacek Gniadek’s Parish inZambia. The whole project is divided into three stages. Stages will be completed consecutively. At

present we are focussed on building a nursery school. This will be a building consisting of 3 classrooms and a social room for children and employees. There will also be a playground, a garden and sports field. The investment has been calculated at sixty-three thousand two hundred and forty zloty (around £13.000).

We’re collecting donations.

We need anything and everything that’s needed when building the nursery school and the school from scratch. Below, there is a list of the most important items. However, if you think that you have anything to spare that can be donated to us that could be of any use when building or running the nursery or the school, don’t hesitate to write to us , even if what you offer isn’t on the list.

There isn’t any basic building material like bricks, sand or cement on the list as their transport cost renders them uneconomical. However, the list contains items that, for us, are of everyday use but in Zambia even if you wanted to be purchase them, are impossible to get, i.e. dishwashers and nice playgrounds.

Donated items don’t necessary need to be new, however, they shouldn’t be excessively worn or damaged.   The List of needed items……

  • Computers
  • Photocopiers
  • Desks
  • TVs
  • Carpets
  • Chairs
  • Stools
  • Paper, pens, staplers, files, etc.
  • Curtains, net curtains
  • Toys
  • Children’s books in English especially activity books
  • Paint, wall paper, and glue.
  • Wall tiles
  • White Boards and multimedia projectors
  • School uniforms or material for them.
  • Cups, plates, cutlery and canteen equipment
  • Large capacity washing machine and a large capacity dishwasher
  • Bedding, pillowcases and deck chairs
  • Printers
  • Floor panels
  • Notebooks
  • Playground, swings, slides and sand pits
  • Benches for outside
  • Garden lamps and torches

Volunteers welcomed!

Donations will be useful, money even more, but even more appreciated would be your skills and your help as a volunteer. If you are skilled at building or organising our initiative please contact us.

The rules are simple. You have to get to Lusaka (tickets from 2 to 2.500 zloty which is about £400- 500). When you get there we will provide you with accommodation, feed you well and you will be working. It’s certain apart from work you must live your life that’s why in your spare time you can visit the beautiful surrounding area. Thus, you will work a bit, you will visit Africa for little money and in an unusual way, you will help people and at the same time survive an incredible adventure.

A huge transport to Africa departs in September 2012 – Where exactly it is:

For more information, contact either Dale Slinger: 0775 458 0868 or 01709 362991 or Marek Niedzwiedz: 0775 636 1513 or 0114 360 3335




It’s really wonderful to mark the One hundred and fifty year opening of this grand hotel; a property that’s roots run deep through the city’s history. An anniversary is a time to pause and reflect.

Built in the time of the British Empire, in the heart of the industrial revolution, an era of incredible optimism and opportunities, when the buildings were very much seen a reflection of status and social class, this perfectly geometrically proportioned historic building with its large bay windows, Victoria railings and many alluring features, demonstrates magnificently the very best example of Victorian architecture.

It is easy to see why Victorian interior decoration is one of the most popular design styles. Casting your eye around the building; the magnificent frescoed ceilings, the intricate ceiling cornices, the elaborate pediments over doors, the abundant chandeliers, the imposing marble fireplaces, and the heavy gold mirrors signal grandeur of yester year.

It is worth remembering that when this hotel was built, 150 years ago, across the water America was in the throes of a terrible Civil War. In January that year America introduced the concept of the 1st US income tax (3% of incomes > $600, 5% of incomes > $10,000); oh to have those income tax rates today. In United States they commissioned the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship. They introduced a paper currency, the (greenbacks) introduced by Pres Abraham Lincoln. In Europe Les Misérables was published by Victor Hugo and in Prussia aged 47 Otto von Bismarck becomes its prime minister.

During the mid-19th century, Britain enjoyed unparalleled prosperity. The contributions made to the world by the British Empire in technology, philosophy, literature, medicine, investment, institutions, and plain advancements of mankind, was clear to see. The great power of this industrial revolution could be witnessed in the advancement of the railways; alongside a new breed of prestigious hotels that include hotels that remain today household names: The Caledonian Edinburgh, The Gleneagles Hotel, The Turnberry Hotel, The Midland Hotel Manchester, The Landmark London, The Grosvenor Hotel and in Sheffield The Royal Victoria Hotel.

The Railways and their new prestigious Railway Hotels really opened the opportunity of travel in the country. It is not hard to see why the ‘great and the good’, flocked to this new way of travel; electing to stay in the grandeur of these Victorian Hotels, that personified the timeless opulent of the Victoria era, a captivating, exquisite, and truly unforgettable image of lavish, abundant living.

So much history is centred on in this great hotel. Queen Victoria and successive members of the royal family elected to say in the Royal Victoria, as it is known in Sheffield, when visiting Yorkshire. The hotel has hosted in the past 150 years many Prime Ministers including Winston Churchill, and writers including Oscar Wilde. The wonders that have been unveiled, the parties have been seen, and the events have been celebrated as the hotel witness great unions of Families, Companies, association dinners, and corporate events, to most recently hosting the Olympic Torch. For One hundred and fifty years, the Royal Victoria truly has been at the heart of Sheffield life.

Set on high ground, this magnificent and impressive grade 2 listed building is Sheffield’s oldest city centre hotel.   The bedrooms are spacious, elegant and beautifully appointed and follow the very best principles of Victorian design, with the walls painted in dark and vibrant colours, and voluminous high ceilings. The bedrooms sizes and shapes reflective of their time; are grand, capacious and individually sized. The Royal Victoria has a proud reputation for offering a seamless fusion of the traditional and modern livings due to its passion for uncompromising service combine with the investment in the latest technologies.

As we all look back with pride and gratitude on One hundred and fifty years of rich history, we look forward with excitement about what the next 150 years will bring. We invite you enjoin your events and celebrations in this great hotel; to write your own page in the illustrious future of Sheffield’s oldest hotel.

Find out more about The Holiday Inn Royal Victoria Hotel, Sheffield at 

Go Ahead—Add a Splash of Color.

As a member of The Fruit Tree Business Growth Club, I am delighted to have been asked to provide some input in the ‘Learn’ part of the networking meetings held in Sheffield, Doncaster and Leeds.

The first of these will be in Doncaster on 24 May 2012 and will be about ‘Understanding Communication’.  Learn why people communicate the way they do and use that knowledge to avoid conflict and build better relationships. This will be followed at a later date with a session on ‘Understanding Body Language’.

The Fruit Tree is an excellent business networking group that focuses not only on meeting like-minded business people but in providing educational sessions which help members improve their business.

It’s not about selling to one another.  It’s about developing relationships, increasing the awareness of each others business and, ultimately, establishing how you can help each other to grow.

Without doubt the most cost-effective and direct route to new clients is through ‘word of mouth’ marketing i.e. get someone you know to refer you.  After all, it doesn’t cost anything to ‘have a word’, your potential client hears good things about you before you meet and so the chances of converting the prospect to a client is much higher (and cheaper) than most other forms of marketing.

I am looking forward to providing some information to help my business colleagues to improve their communication skills and build better relationships.

We are delighted to announce that we have been successful in our bid to win a 12 month contract with Sheffield City Council to provide development and delivery of training for staff in their centralised contact centre.

In October/November 2011, we delivered some courses to staff at the Council’s contact centre in Customer Care, Workplace Coaching and Team leading. This was supplemented in January 2012 with similar courses for managers and staff from a variety of departments.

In March this year, along with other suppliers, we were invited to bid for a contract as a Senior Training Provider to develop and deliver training for staff engaged in the Council’s Customer First program.

Having recently been notified that our bid has been successful, we are looking forward to continuing our work with the Council to develop and deliver training to staff who work in the Council’s telephone contact centre and at the First Point enquiry offices.

Training will also involve the Council’s partner agencies and is aimed at supporting a continuing commitment to meet and exceed the Customer First standards, providing excellent customer service to the citizens of Sheffield.

Read more about Sheffield City Council

Read more about Crucible Learning and Development

Our owner, Stuart Pybus, has successfully completed a course in mentoring with the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs.

Stuart will shortly be registered on the database of IoEE and is looking forward to working with new entrepreneurs in developing their business.

The course was run by The Watershed, Sheffield and delivered by their founder, Dean Maragh.

Be Recognised, Get Answers, Meet a Mentor and Grow.

The IoEE is the first, dedicated personal development Institute for anyone thinking about, starting or running their own enterprise and all those who support them.

We recognise the professional achievement of our members and enable the continuous development of the skills and knowledge required for success in their enterprise or enterprise support role.

Our members help each other to develop and this increases survival and growth rates.

You can find out more about the IoEE at


Hanging on the phone waiting for a call centre to answer could become a thing of the past thanks to a British invention.


The average Briton spends 45 hours a year waiting on the phone.

But an inventor thinks he has come up with the answer – a phone app that promises to do the waiting for you.

Matt King’s ‘WeQ4U’ service claims to not only take the angst out of contacting call centres, but also save users about 30p per minute.

His ‘queuing robot’ technology means people can put the phone down when told to wait for a call centre to pick up. It stays connected and will only ring the user’s own phone once an operator is free.

The service is available to landline, Android and iPhone users but Mr King, 36, from Kennington in south London, soon hopes to add a BlackBerry app.

Some call centre operators may be surprised to find themselves put through to a customer, rather than the other way round but Mr King says the feedback has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

He is now putting together a hitlist of which companies or agencies are rated worst by consumers for waiting times.
Read more:

Customer First! Training for Council Staff

Sheffield City Council have embarked on a programme of Customer Service training for their staff at their walk-in centre (First Point) and at their centralised telephone contact centre.

Crucible Learning and Development are proud to have been awarded the contract to deliver this training, which has included Understanding Communication Styles, Listening Skills, Telephone Skills, Body Language recognition, Workplace Coaching to Improve Performance, and First Line Supervisor Skills.

We continue to work with the Council to expand this programme into other service areas.

We are proud to be working with Sheffield City Council to enhance the skills of their staff in providing

excellent service to the citizens of Sheffield.

Sheffield is one of England’s largest cities and a metropolitan borough in South Yorkshire, England. It gained its city charter in 1893 and officially became titled the City of Sheffield.

With a population of 555,000, the City of Sheffield is England’s third largest metropolitan authority and the fourth largest City outside London.

The city has two universities – the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University – with over 61,300 students.