Quest’s unannounced assessments help frontline staff raise their game

The introduction of a new unannounced assessment from Quest, the UK’s quality scheme from sport and leisure, is helping operators already registered with the scheme to take their service delivery to the next level.

One of the requirements of Quest registration is that centres must undergo a one-day Directional Review (DR) a year after their initial assessment. While the results do not affect the site’s registered status, unless they fail the statutory Health and Safety Declaration, the report helps managers identify areas for improvement ahead of their next registration assessment the following year.

But since the launch of a completely redesigned DR in July, this mini assessment has just got a lot more challenging. Firstly, the date of the visit is now unannounced. Secondly, the new process is aimed squarely not at general managers, but at duty management and frontline staff.

With a much greater focus on the operational aspects of the business, the new assessment covers three areas: General Observations, on everything from building presentation to customer service; a Review of Duty Management, ranging from communication methods to staff training on procedures; and a Review of Operational Staff, ranging from development processes to awareness of business objectives.

In addition to checking competence in all these areas, the assessor conducts interviews with both duty managers and frontline staff to determine how they might react in a variety of situations. For example, what should you do if a fitness instructor doesn’t turn up for their class? Or one customer accuses another of indecent exposure?

Gill Twell, Quest Operations Manager, says: “The unannounced Directional Review will help senior managers to understand and raise the standard of what is happening at their facilities on a day-to-day basis, by ensuring that frontline managers and staff are knowledgeable, trained and have the necessary resources in place.”

Since July, 28 sites have gone through the new review, and a survey of results to date shows some interesting findings. For example, while most facilities score highly for staff training and qualifications across a range of areas, ongoing staff training plans are in need of improvement, with 43 per cent of sites only scoring Satisfactory in this area.

Other strengths include user-friendly and well-presented websites, varied and accessible activity programmes and the statutory Health and Safety Declaration, which received an average Excellent score of 88 per cent (though this was weaker for the general Health and Safety review, at 73 per cent).

On the other hand, the report identifies a lack of awareness of business objectives among operational staff, with 86 per cent of sites scoring no more than Satisfactory in this area, and none scoring Very Good or Excellent. Other weaknesses include a failure to answer calls in a timely manner, accessibility issues, poor social media strategies and a failure to respond promptly to customer feedback.

“Because this assessment focuses more on day-to-day operational procedures and less on strategy, some of the results are quite different to what we would expect to see in a standard Quest assessment,” says Twell. “For example, we were surprised to see centres scoring so well in general maintenance yet not so well in cleanliness and housekeeping.

“But the key lessons for senior managers are, firstly, that frontline staff are paramount to the successful running of sport and leisure centres; and secondly, that everyone in your team, from top to bottom, needs to understand every aspect of the operational side of the business.”

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For further information contact:
Rhianon Howells at Big Fish Public Relations
Tel: 01843 600610
Mob: 07967 551142

Editor’s notes:
Quest is the UK quality scheme for sport and leisure. Managed by Right Directions in partnership with Leisure-net Solutions, it is a tool for continuous improvement, designed primarily for the management of leisure facilities and leisure development. Quest defines industry standards and good practice, and encourages their ongoing development and delivery within a customer-focused management framework.

The National Benchmarking Service (NBS) provides critical data on the performance of your leisure facility. Leisure-net Solutions, in partnership with Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University, works on behalf of Sport England to provide a seamless, rigorous and valuable collection and analysis of participation, financial and customer satisfaction data. For more information, visit

Abigail Harris About the author
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