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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

It feels like the past week has seen a step change in the national psyche. The UK economy is predicted to grow at its fastest rate in more than 70 years, the recruitment market is heating up, and pent-up consumer demand provides a huge opportunity for businesses that have positioned themselves well for the coming recovery.

In addition, the customer experience environment has been transformed over the past year, and this will present both opportunities and new challenges, as physical premises open back up. The reality is that many customers and employees won’t want to return to precisely the way things were pre-pandemic – and finding the right formula for serving customers in the new world will require fresh ideas, strategic thinking and flexibility.

The harsh realities of the crisis forced businesses in some sectors to innovate to survive. Many embraced new digital services – moving on from chatbots to video consultations, expanded click & collect offerings – and more immersive experiences that have combined tech with personal service. Companies are embracing technology to create more enticing customer interactions within their own homes – with virtual experiences such as cook-a-longs, escape rooms, wine tastings and online concerts, providing an emotional connection in a new way.

Continuing to innovate – and find new ways to improve and enhance the customer experience – will be crucial to survival in the new world. We will need to balance the need for innovation with a core focus on getting the basics right. Following an initial period of tolerance at the start of the pandemic – impatient customers, weary from a difficult year, are likely to place heightened expectation on service and the personal touch and a more novel experience.

That means looking for solutions that make life easier for your customers; delivering a smooth experience end to end. Technical innovation is usually most effective when combined with a human touch. Some issues – particularly of a sensitive nature – will always require the level of care and attention that can only be delivered by a knowledgeable, well trained and empathetic person.

In planning for the future – and to make the most of the opportunities that undoubtedly lie in front of us, (as our own research demonstrates that consumers rate customer service more now than before the pandemic), we need to seize the opportunities never forgetting the core principles of excellent service, balancing the needs for function and innovation, whilst taking the time to understand the needs of their customer base and delivering the appropriate solutions to meet them; will be in the strongest position to succeed.

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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