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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

Customer service isn’t just something we encourage our members and the UK’s wider organisational community to practice. Inspiring others to make a difference is only possible if we lead by example.

That is why we are using National Customer Service Week as a catalyst for four activities. Each of these will not be a ‘one off’; rather they have been designed to improve the way we serve our members and recognise our staff. The theme at the start of the week, which begins on Monday 5th October, is ‘know your customer’. Our customer satisfaction ratings suggest we already do know what they want from us, but complacency is a dangerous enemy so we are kick starting an audit of engagement plans. Each and every member will have one created specifically for them so that everyone knows what our members want and anyone can help if need be.

According to research The Institute has conducted to mark National Customer Service Week this year, 78 percent of UK consumers are prepared to make a complaint if they feel let down. Worryingly, however, 1 in 5 of the 2,000 respondents said they don’t both because it’s too much hassle. We believe that customer service is a key business differentiator and this applies just as much when things go wrong as when everything runs smoothly. It’s with this in mind that we have undertaken a comprehensive review of our current complaints handling process, which better enables us to help members and non-members if they are unsatisfied with something. It’s part of our own Customer Complaints MOT.

Of course, customer service is not just about how we build relationships with our external contacts. Just as important is how we work together as a team. That’s why National Customer Service Week will be the Launchpad for our latest staff satisfaction survey. We want to know what you think! We also want to recognise the efforts that colleagues go to creating great customer service, which is why our next away day will also play host to our Employee Recognition Awards.

The simple fact is this: as the economy moves more strongly into growth issues of employee recruitment, engagement and retention take on renewed significance and, as the relationship economy takes hold, how organisations respond to customer needs can make the difference between loyalty or leaving. Only a long-term focus on the quality of relationships, with employees, customers and partners, will enable organisations to thrive and prosper. Yet they mustn’t fall in to the trap of dedicating one week a year to customer service. It has to be sustained 24/7, 365 days a year.

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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