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Structures for success, a report by the Institute of Customer Service, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of five key business models, PLC, private, partnership, mutual and franchise, in terms of customer service. Drawing on interviews with 25 business leaders, the report identifies key areas that have the potential to determine an organisation’s quality of service, regardless of its model.With a recent survey by Lithium Technologies suggesting that almost one in three UK customer care managers believe they rely on old customer service techniques, there has never been a better time to evaluate service strategies. Here are five structures highlighted in our report that your organisation may want to consider revising:

1. Leadership

A clear commitment to customer service at leadership level is the most significant determinant of customer satisfaction, according to our interviewees. In fact, some feel that effective leadership and management can actually compensate for inherent disadvantages in an organisation’s business model, especially if customer service leadership has significant influence at board level.

2. Employee engagement

Our research shows that partnerships can encourage particularly high employee-engagement levels, and engagement is key when it comes to strong customer service. The John Lewis Partnership’s ability to generate employee engagement, high customer satisfaction and sustained performance has caused many to cite it as a model for other organisations to follow.

3. Company culture

Again, the partnership model seems to set the best example when it comes to service-oriented culture. Encouraging employees to pull in the same direction, do their work with pride and go the extra mile for customers are strategies that all organisations can employ, regardless of their business model.

4. Organisational structure

Having the appropriate responsibilities and authorities within the structure of an organisation is critical. Across all business models, the companies that demonstrate the highest customer satisfaction levels are those that understand the potential strengths and weaknesses of their ownership and governance structure, and restructure where necessary.

5. Consistent management

The report suggests that a ‘revolving door’ of senior leadership can hinder consistent strategy and delivery, while consistent management generates commitment to improvement. Sharing a long-term view for the company and ensuring senior leaders feel valued and trusted will help executives foster a management team that is committed to both the company and the customer.

The Institute of Customer Service

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