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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

As our road out of lockdown continues, it’s been heartening to see streets and premises across the country once again bustling with customers. As the nation reawakens from our enforced hibernation, organisations are understandably eager to make up for the losses of the past year. Yet in chasing short-term financial gains, we must not lose sight of the focus on service that has seen us through the crisis.

Speculation this week of a new variant halting our recovery roadmap acts as a stark reminder that there will be no abrupt end to this crisis – it will be a gradual process, with more potential challenges to come. Organisations should remember that the road to successfully rebuilding will be a marathon; not a sprint – and the pressure to bounce back must be balanced with the need to build and maintain long-term customer loyalty.

The truth is that customer service and strong business performance go hand in hand. Those organisations that most effectively weathered the storm over the past year are those that have maintained a laser-sharp focus on their service offering – taking the time to understand the needs of their customers and adapting their offering around them. Of course – in many cases this means finding new and innovative ways for customers to interact with brands. Many of the new innovations we have seen emerge over the course of the past year have proven to be highly effective, with new technologies and enhanced virtual experiences becoming commonplace. Whilst we must absolutely keep our focus on enhancing these elements of the customer experience, we must ensure it is not at the expense of getting the basics right.

Even as restrictions ease, the financial impact of the crisis still looms – and as customers’ purse strings remain tightened, a bad encounter could mark the difference between a one-off transaction and a long-term, loyal customer. We must resist the temptation to do too much, too soon – and balance the need to drive innovative new solutions with delivering the basics; providing experiences that are right first time, making service easier across channels and investing in people development.

We have a long road ahead, but I have no doubt there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those that hold their nerve – keeping focused on the needs of their customers and remain agile enough to deliver innovative experiences whilst not losing sight of the basics, will be in the strongest position to rebuild.

Jo Causon

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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