BAA buyers fill in with colouring books

2 December 2011

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2 December 2011 | Adam Leach

Procurement professionals at BAA stepped out of the office and onto the terminal at Heathrow armed with colouring books and iPads to ease passenger stress resulting from Wednesday’s public sector strike.

Chris Hughes, head of procurement in the BAA commercial management team, explained buyers were able to step up to the challenges, such as longer queues and administrative delays, presented by Border Agency staff downing tools for the day: “We’ve been preparing for this for a number of weeks and we already have standard contingency programmes in place which we can activate at any moment.”

In preparation for the industrial action, and for other disruption, his team keeps a rolling stock of “welfare products”, such as blankets, bottles of water and iPads and BlackBerrys to aid communication between staff, that can be called upon at a moments notice.

Specifically for Wednesday, they brought in extra supplies of baby products and colouring books to try to reduce the stress placed on children. Key to the success of the strategy was giving suppliers notice of the strike and putting customer service contractors on standby, in case they were needed.

In support of this, Hughes and his team have signed up specific suppliers, suited to dealing with disruptive events over the past six months. He told SM: “It’s about resilience, it’s about knowing that if an event occurs, whatever that event is, we know that we have the resources which we can draw upon on very short notice.”

The procurement team also took a hands-on approach to dealing with the crisis as they put the customer services training they had been given, as part of the contingency plan, into action to help passengers find their way around and also ease the stress brought on by disruptions.

Nicola Bromby, head of policy and procedure and contract specialist in the commercial team at BAA spent the day keeping passengers updated through her BlackBerry and iPad, calming children with free colouring books and putting her language skills to use by communicating with Italian passengers.

She told SM, that the day had also been a chance to see how other members of staff worked and see the impact procurement has: “Working with them was really good to see what works and what doesn’t work and also to build that relationship. It gets us communicating more effectively.”


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