By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service
To begin my first column of 2021, I’d like to wish you all a very happy New Year. I hope you were able to enjoy some much-needed downtime over the Christmas break.
Sadly, we are not entering the new year in the way any of us had hoped. News of another nationwide lockdown, combined with the ongoing impact of Brexit and unbelievable scenes in the US, continue to fill our outlook with uncertainty and risk. Never before have we seen so much change in such a short space of time; and I believe we are living through some of the most challenging times we have ever experienced as a nation. Yet, I also think there is also cause for hope. Amongst the uncertainty, the new year presents a real opportunity to reflect, refocus and reignite our efforts to rebuild our economy in a way that is better for customers, better for business and better for society.
The service environment has changed enormously in the past 12 months. Physical restrictions have forced organisations to adapt their offering to ensure they can continue serving customers from afar. Organisations across all sectors have responded with remarkable ingenuity to changing circumstances. We have seen many innovations borne out of necessity prove to be more effective than their predecessors. The impact of the crisis will leave a permanent mark on the way customers interact with organisations – and it is crucial that businesses to take the time to understand who they are serving and why, and adapt their offering accordingly.
Yet perhaps more importantly, the crisis has also accelerated patterns we had already seen emerge pre-pandemic. As purse strings tighten, customers have become even more discerning with where they spend their money; placing greater emphasis on trust, customer ethos and “doing the right thing”. They are increasingly looking for more than a simple transactional experience; and want businesses to show that they are strong on ethics, social responsibility and sound business practices. Where organisations demonstrate this, they will be rewarded with greater loyalty in the long term.
Our research shows a clear link between customer satisfaction and financial performance. If we are to survive the challenging months ahead, and successfully rebuild our economy, we must put the customer at the heart of our organisations. We have a long road ahead. By focusing on our long-term purpose, understanding our customers and developing our offering around them, we can not only successfully weather this storm – but build a true service nation that is the envy of the world.