Establishing a customer charter / code of conduct
This paper sets out to identify the minimum content of a model Customer Charter/Code of Practice.
What is a Customer Charter/Code of Practice?
The main purpose of a Customer Charter/Code of Practice is to improve access to an organisation's services and promote quality. It does this by telling customers the standards of service to expect, what to do if something goes wrong, and how to make contact. A Customer Charter/Code of Practice helps employees too, by setting out clearly the services their organisation provides.
Should an organisation have one?
A Customer Charter/Code of Practice is an ideal way of helping organisations define with their customers, and others, what that service should be and the standard that should be expected. They also help customers get the most from an organisation's services, including how to make a complaint if they are dissatisfied with any aspect or have ideas for improvement.
Developing a Customer Charter/Code of Practice will:
- help an organisation clarify what people want from their services and target resources accordingly
- help an organisation and its employees look at the aims of that organisation, and whether it provides value for money
- focus an organisation's employees on the work to improve services and promote quality, and ensure that their knowledge and experience is put to good use
- encourage customers to provide feedback on how an organisation's service is delivered
- explain to customers how they can help an organisation deliver the services they want
- help drive and sustain a process of continuous improvement in service quality
- help foster good relations with customers generally, most of whom will welcome an organisation's efforts to take account of their views
What should it include?
A Customer Charter/Code of Practice should clearly set out the purposes and priorities of an organisation. In particular, it should:
- spell out the standards of service customers can expect
- tell customers how to complain if something goes wrong, or service is not met, or how to offer a suggestion for improvement
- make clear how customers can contact an organisation and get further information
- make sure the information is accessible and easy to understand
- fully involve customers and employees in its preparation
- explain how an organisation is planning for further improvement
- assure customers that they will receive a fair service
- say if there is any relevant legislation
- make sure that the publication date is clearly visible, and ensure the content remains current
Other points to consider
A Customer Charter/Code of Practice should be written in a clear and user-friendly way. Although not mandatory, a Crystal Mark endorsement by the Plain English Campaign would enhance its status. If appropriate, it should be displayed in a prominent place, so all customers can see it.
It is vital that a Customer Charter/Code of Practice is available in different formats, such as large print and audio, so that customers with particular needs can access it.
If an organisation is part of an industry where a regulator has been appointed, details of how to contact the regulator should be included.