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Awards 2016: Video

The Big Red Sofa
For HomeServe Membership
By The Internal Communications team


HomeServe is one of the UK’s leading home assistance providers, making Customers’ lives easier by delivering maintenance and repair services, including plumbing, drainage, electrics, heating and much more. Over 2.2 million People in the UK turn to us when it comes to fixing, maintaining and looking after their homes.

In 2014 we set out our 2020 strategy supported by a Customer Charter and People Charter, and we’ve established a culture of open and honest two-way communication which is led from the top. It’s a culture where anyone at any level of the organisation is trusted to do the right thing for our Customers and is able to put forward ideas to improve what we do in the business. We truly believe that if we look after our People, they will look after our Customers and the rest will take care of itself.
A key component of leading this change has been our ‘cascade’ events, which have seen our CEO, Martin Bennett, and his team address all of our People face-to-face in a series of interactive conferences. They’ve been incredibly successful and are one of the reasons 96% of our People understand the strategy and how they contribute; they’re now just part of what we do.
Above all, the cascades provided a unique opportunity for our People to ask questions and for the leadership team to address them personally and openly. We wanted to find a way to replicate that process throughout the year, to be able to reach all of our People more often, no matter where they are based or what role they do, but without the impact, constraints and cost of holding large conferences. The nature of our business means we have to be there for our Customers 24/7/365, so it takes considerable preparation to mitigate the operational impact of the cascades.
We like to have fun with our communications and we wanted whatever we did to look and feel authentic. Knowing the best way to achieve this was to do something live and unedited we began to explore methods of live streaming video in a way that would work across desktop and mobile platforms, allowing our People, whether they are in an office, a call centre or a van, to watch a broadcast live as it happened, but also be able to catch up at a later time (an important factor for our engineers and Customer service representatives).
After a investigating a few options for live streaming we found our preferred platform and began to develop what is now called the ‘Big Red Sofa’. Just over a year later the Big Red Sofa has become a fortnightly broadcast which is held at the same time and the same day, every other week. It has become one of our most important communication channels and is constantly evolving to remain fresh and relevant.
The fortnightly live broadcast employs an engaging ‘chat show’ format with a host, Martin Bennett as our regular guest and different guests on each show, which change depending on our focus or location. Changing guests means we can keep our content topical and in the run up to Brexit we even had the MP for South Staffordshire and Private Secretary to the Prime Minister appear as a guest to answer audience questions. Each show lasts for up to 20 minutes; with the frequency of the broadcasts, anything less would not do our content justice and anything longer would likely lose our audience’s interest.
As much effort goes into preparing the content for the show as into the live execution. A running order is produced for every show covering topical areas for discussion, questions submitted by our People and proposed responses. We consciously avoid scripting our presenters or guests, but we do ensure they are fully prepared. The end result is a natural conversation that engages our audience.
We have fun with the Big Red Sofa and this is reflected in the tone of the show but we also put an emphasis on confidentiality; our People know that we trust them to keep the show and everything we discuss inside the business. “What goes on tour, stays on tour” has become an unofficial catchphrase! We bridged the internal/external divide for the first time in December 2016, when we broadcast internally and externally (via Facebook Live) to celebrate appearing in Glassdoor’s 2017 list of Best Places to Work in the UK!
The Big Red Sofa has received a fantastic response and viewing figures have steadily increased. A growing number of People watch the broadcast live, either individually or as teams, and the majority catch up within the first week. We have found that, as more People have discovered the Big Red Sofa, they have also gone back to watch previous shows, further boosting viewing figures.
As we continue to evolve, we’re finding new ways to make the Big Red Sofa accessible. We have provided everyone with Big Red Sofa branded earphones to make it easier to listen to at desks, and an embedded Big Red Sofa player on the intranet homepage has to made it even easier for our People find and watch.
The show is going from strength to strength and has already become such an integral part of the way we keep HomeServe’s culture open, honest and above all, authentic.

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