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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

The turbulence of the past 18 months has placed us all on high-alert, and organisation’s risk management strategies have truly been put to the test to deal with the multitude of challenges that have come our way. We have seen a wide spectrum of crisis plans play out; with varying degrees of success. Whilst some have been well-thought out and effectively implemented, others have fallen short – revealing deeper organisational flaws. As we are all trying to come to terms with the new state of things, where there is still much uncertainty, the time has come to take a step back from fire-fighting to reflect, re-evaluate our plans and move forward.

For me, one of the greatest lessons we have learnt through these extraordinary times is the importance of embedding customer service principles into the heart of risk-management strategies. This goes beyond just safeguarding the continuity of goods and services; to looking at ways to manage customer expectations in times of unprecedented upheaval.

Rising instances of customer frustration as a result of late or missed deliveries and longer waiting times have truly highlighted the need for honest and open dialogue with customers and employees – setting clear expectations and showing genuine understanding. As we move ahead, it is important to not only clearly communicate how the experiences of the past 18 months have impacted the organisation – but also how they will shape the future.

Communication is important, too, with suppliers and stakeholders – who are directly impacted by the customer experience an organisation provides. Without the demand, supply and profits subside. Stakeholders put the pressure on in times of crisis, and some teams may crumble, but a bold, customer-focussed approach to recovery should deliver results and restore trust.

Many customer services teams across the country have done a stellar job managing customers, suppliers and stakeholders throughout the past year, but the responsibility should not fall to them alone. Experience tells us that values are most successfully embedded into an organisation from the top down Рand I’d like to see organisations striving for a sustained approach to delivering the service experience as a critical part of risk management and governance processes. Good boardroom management should offer support and guidance to help mitigate any future risk and spread this across the whole organisation.

Now is the time for organisational change; to be brave and try new things for the benefit of customers. Risk can go either way – simply doing nothing or resting on our laurels could see businesses rapidly losing ground to more decisive (and bolder) competitors.

There are endless lessons to take away from the last few years, and now has never been a better time to revaluate your risk management processes, shift the focus to customers and continue on a positive trajectory. As we move forward from crisis to continuation, I encourage businesses to take a step back and truly ask themselves; how sustainable is your approach to service?

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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