The arrival of Consumer Duty earlier this year is a clear sign that the FCA is placing a greater emphasis on all aspects of the customer journey and in particular on positive outcomes for customers. In the face of falling customer satisfaction across all sectors of the UK economy, as reported in our UK Customer Service Index (UKCSI), it is worth asking whether the time is right for other regulators to consider similar approaches?
While it rarely makes headlines for the right reasons, regulation plays a key role in safeguarding consumers and holding organisations to account, whilst protecting the most vulnerable. At our recent All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) meeting on this topic we convened parliamentarians, businesses, and regulators to discuss how frameworks are evolving to address some of the service challenges we see across the UK.
The message in the room was clear: defining minimum acceptable levels of customer service is a starting point. However, it is in the best interest of businesses and consumers to promote high standards of customer service for all customers, and not just focus on what the minimum level of service should be. What also emerged was that the issues and challenges are virtually the same across every regulated sector.
Better customer service, at all times, to all people
While minimum standards offer a qualifying bar for companies, customers, regulators and parliamentarians would like to see businesses go further. This means better, more consistent, efficient customer service all the time and to all customers – regardless of circumstance.
Billions of pounds are spent on regulatory compliance each year, yet we are still seeing customer satisfaction falling.A more joined-up approach across the regulators on key customer satisfaction measures will benefit businesses and consumers by promoting transparency and collaboration. Organisations and regulators would, I believe, benefit from a more outcome-focused and more holistic approach to ensuring the end-to-end customer experience.
Measurement is vital – but better understanding of data is needed.
Ensuring consistent measurement of service will be a vital part of this, but organisations must start looking at their data more strategically. Whilst most businesses are collecting data, there should be more analysis to distil insights, measure performance, and improve service to help understand how to personalise and focus on the right elements of the service proposition.
AI will be able to help here, but the data needs to be reliable and consistent. 2023 has seen a re-emergence of the idea that ‘data is the new gold’. For customer service, we need good, independent data, interpreted well and leading to tangible recommendations that are then implemented well. Better collection, reporting and crucially understanding of data will allow businesses and regulators to learn from mistakes and make genuine improvements to their customer service practices. Again, this needs to be outcomes-focused, and not just benchmarked against your own organisation’s (or own sector’s) performance.
The Institute’s UKCSI is pan-sector, includes more than 260 businesses, and has been running for over a decade. It’s robust measurements like this that will give meaningful insight as well as a bird’s eye view of how you are performing. And it’s the cross-sector consistency from these measurements that may help tip the scales back in the right direction for UK customer service.