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Congratulations to all those who received their A-level results yesterday, and to all those who supported our nation’s next generation through so much disruption of schooling and society in the last 2 years. In an environment where there is little good news, this should and can be seen as a real opportunity to start building the future.

80 per cent of our nation’s GDP is generated by our service sector, and it has been hit disproportionately hard by the 1.3 million unfilled jobs across our economy. We can see this across nearly all industry sectors, from hospitality to finance. If we are to build a resilient workforce, we all need to boost our economic recovery: we will need every single one of today’s students, and many more, to address the acute shortage of customer service skills we are facing.

The diversity of opportunities that arise from having a strong set of customer service skills is often underestimated, and it is time that we genuinely see customer service as an opportunity for a fulfilling career choice that delivers highly sought-after transferable skills. It is therefore the duty of every customer service professional at all levels to champion skills development across our industry and to ensure the leadership to help make it an inspiring career choice. Attracting ambitious and optimistic young workers will help deliver better employee engagement and retention, which will in turn lead to better service and in the longer-term, higher productivity and better financial returns.

As both parents and employers, we can assist those entering the university clearing process by highlighting the many advantages of not just the degree route, but also apprenticeships and entry level roles as the start of a successful career. Given the many transferable aspects of our profession, those opting for entry-level roles, apprenticeships or degrees including customer service skills will greatly increase their employability across all other sectors of the economy for the future.

Inspiring the next generation into our profession benefits all of us. If we want UK businesses to succeed, we must equip the workforce with the right customer service skills. With uncertain economic conditions leading to falls in household income, families are becoming more selective in their buying behaviour and less tolerant of organisations that fail to meet their requirements. To survive such conditions, organisations need to recruit and retain those with emotional intelligence, commercial acumen and the ability to understand and use technology flexibly.

Now is the time to inspire the next generation that customer service capabilities are not a bolt-on set of functions, but rather a key strategic driver of business performance and the UK’s best path to future success and prosperity.

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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