Customer service: it’s a strategic asset

susie_schofieldSusie Schofield writes: Customer service has always been integral to the FJWilson Talent Services’ business strategy. In this three-part series, we speak to Jo Causon, Chief Executive of The Institute of Customer Service, the independent, professional membership body for customer service.

The Institute helps its members to improve their customers’ experience and their own business performance.

Image result for Jo Causon
Jo Causon

Jo has been CEO of The Institute since 2009 and in that time has driven membership growth by 150% and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI)  as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment. 

The Institute is a recent client of FJWilson Talent Services (FJWTS), and endorses our service as follows:  ‘From start to finish the customer experience has been a good one.  FJWTS took time to understand our brief and personalised the search to match The Institute’s needs, providing a timely service and one which ensured we achieved a positive result.  Their attention to detail, recognition of our business requirements and relentless focus on getting things right first time ensured that we were able to find the ideal candidate in the ideal time.’

In this first post in the series, we find out from Jo why customer service is so integral to an organisation’s business strategy. In the second post, with Jo’s help, we will examine the importance of having engaged employees in delivering customer service. In the third and final post, Jo will provide tips on how to recruit – and retain – engaged employees.

Right from the off in our interview it is abundantly clear that Jo is passionate about customer service: ‘there is very clear economic and reputational value to delivering great customer service. With 80% of GDP in the UK being service-generated and 70% of the UK workforce in a customer role, customer service is a business discipline which cannot be ignored’.

Jo explains: ‘customer service has evolved from being a merely transactional and operational function to a core asset’.

The Institute conducts research to improve organisations’ customer satisfaction and business performance. In its report, The Customer Service Dividend the Institute reports that ‘organisations that have sustained higher than average customer satisfaction in their sector have achieved high levels of revenue growth over the short, medium and long term’.[1]

Jo tells me that ‘for organisations which outperform their sector competitors in customer service, they have a 114% increased productivity’. She drives further into the numbers: ‘organisations with customer satisfaction at least one point higher than their sector average achieved average annual turnover growth of 9.1%, versus virtually flat growth for those with lower satisfaction’.

Future threats to business

We’re living in uncertain times: Brexit, inflationary pressures, rising prices, artificial intelligence, the deterioration of public trust, to name but a few, are the challenges businesses face. These external challenges are redefining the relationships between organisations, employees and customers.

Jo explains: ‘as services become increasingly integrated and traditional sector boundaries less distinct, organisations will need to look beyond their immediate sector to benchmark performance and seek wider collaboration and co-creation in delivering products and services’.

Increasingly, organisations will focus on easing customer effort as a differentiator that builds trusted, ongoing relationships.

The cost of poor customer service

Jo points out that ‘it’s not just about productivity but the cost of poor customer service. How much time is lost through lost productivity?

‘Data from a survey analysing the impact of employees having to take time out of their working day to resolve customer service issues revealed that it cost UK business £28 billion in lost production – people who are wasting time sorting out problems with their mortgages, their bills, and dealing with poor service.’

Using customer service as the focus of your business strategy

Jo gives two reasons why customer service is so important:

  1. it has a fundamental impact on the wellbeing of the UK’s economy, and
  2. the customer dividend

‘Broadly speaking, over a one, five and eight-year period, where organisations out-perform in customer service, they have significant higher levels of revenue; 10% higher level of profitability, higher levels of productivity.’

The customer dividend

In the Institute’s report, The Customer Service Dividend, many organisations which have achieved consistently strong customer satisfaction and financial performance explicitly reference investment customer experience as an essential enabler of their business strategy.[2]

Jo adds that ‘for organisations which enjoy significant levels of trust and reputation, they will gather dividends in a world where public trust is withering. It isn’t good enough to be “just OK” at delivering customer service (e.g., 8 out of 10): you need to be operating at 9 out of 10 or 10 out of 10 customer satisfaction levels.

‘This is why organisations have to be consistently on their customer service game and why customer service needs to be on the boardroom agenda.  Unless this happens and unless there is a joined-up approach to customer service across the whole of the business the risk to future success is too high.’

Engaging employees in delivering excellent customer service

Many of the UK’s leading organisations recognise the role of customer experience and employee engagement in delivering sustained performance. New research shows that customers’ perceptions of employee engagement strongly influence buying behaviour. 67% of customers who had a great experience with an employee said they would buy again from that organisation, compared to 11% who had a bad experience.[3]

Jo recommends that the link between customer and employee engagement needs to be seen not just as a survey or action plan, but as a vital business discipline.

In our next blog post, we’ll examine how employee engagement plays a significant role in delivering excellent customer service.

 

Notes

 

[1] The Customer Service Dividend: how organisations have achieved ROI and greater productivity, Institute of Customer Service, December 2017, p13 https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/research-insight/research-library/the-customer-service-dividend-how-organisations-have-achieved-roi-and-greater-productivity

[2] The Customer Service Dividend, p9

[3] The Customer Knows: how employee engagement leads to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, Institute of Customer Service, February 2017, p7 https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/research-insight/research-library/the-customer-knowshow-employee-engagement-leads-to-greater-customer-satisfaction-and-loyalty

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