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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

The past few weeks have seen some big brand names making bold, strategic, decisions that go right to the heart of customer service. At the start of May, Morrisons announced plans to roll back self-service checkouts in favour of staffed express tills. And then Twitter unveiled tools designed to block online harassment.

At first glance these actions seem to have no correlation; one focuses on the online world, the other on how customers behave in a bricks and mortar environment. But that is only if you go ‘skin deep’. Probe a little further and it becomes clear that both brands are trying to put customer desires at the heart of what they do. Or to quote Morrisons’ chief executive, the new policies are the result of ‘listening hard’ to their customers.

It’s encouraging because evidence from the latest UKCSI suggests that being heard is one of the things customers most want. But there is a difference between being heard and being listened to. As much as the new approach will be applauded in some quarters, a question remains around whether all Morrisons’ customers views are being considered.

Choice matters when it comes to good customer service, so the quarter of customers who prefer using self-service checkouts still need their preferences taken into account. As any leader will say, good business doesn’t just mean listening. Action is vital, too. But I wonder why it took so long for Twitter to respond to customers’ fundamental desire for personal safety? Knee-jerk reactions are rarely a good idea, but in this case many high profile Twitter users left the platform.

A balance, therefore, needs to be struck between listening and taking action. If that balance tips too far in either direction, market penetration can suffer. As we shift from a transactional to relationship economy it’s no longer acceptable for brands to dictate to their customer base. Listening is crucial, but those that hear and engage are the ones most likely to increase customer loyalty and trust.

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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