The Institute’s Annual Conference took place on the 25th February 2014 at the Lancaster London Hotel. The Conference had 300 delegates, eight exhibitors and 10 leading speakers. The key themes from the day are discussed below.
Where are we now?
In such turbulent times when aspects of the economy are improving and others are finding increased competition, the theme of the conference, ‘Customer Service for the new global economy’, combined the knowledge and experiences of a range of leading speakers to encourage the delivery of smarter customer service strategies.
One of the key drivers of this year’s discussion has been prompted by the current environment, as we enter an era of unprecedented complexity and rising customer expectation. The balance of power has shifted to the customer and greater regulation and global competition is having an impact on performance.
As a result we are experiencing a period of change as we move from a transactional economy to an economy centred around relationships. 78% of UK GDP is generated by the service sector, 25% of manufacturing companies revenues come from service and over 70% of the UK employees deal with customer.
In addition, the number of scandals and crisis which occurred last year is putting added pressure on organisations and their response and agility are critical to whether organisations fail, just survive or prosper.
The role of customer service
We believe customer service is important for individual organisations, jobs and employability, social responsibility and the reputation of the UK as a whole. Organisations will succeed by prioritising collaboration over competition, demonstrating authentic, inclusive, responsible and consistent behaviours which are open, engaged and transparent, with the customer considered as part of the organisation and not external to it.
In this relationship economy, successful organisations are more able to cross over and disrupt market places. They work to change the rules of engagement with customers and employees, while raising their expectations of and commitment to service.
The changing economy
As the economy grows there will be winners and losers. We are seeing that those with a sustainable customer service focus are best placed to improve. Those who consistently perform well present a number of key characteristics: leadership, trust and ease of doing business, employee engagement, agility and the ability to develop customer insight, ensuring that they measure the right things.
All of the speakers had several things in common, they spoke of clarity of purpose and a strong sense of leadership. Even though they come from very different sectors and organisations, there was a common sense of purpose and a clear focus on the customer throughout all of their presentations.
The rate and pace of change has increased and the changes are beginning to affect organisations with greater intensity as they endure close scrutiny from consumers and regulators. In order to drive progress in customer service, we will need to keep focused to continue to build successful organisations and be prepared to respond to new technology, new communication methods and changing expectations of employees and customers alike.
The need for strong leadership, purpose and clarity of values which focus on the customer has not changed for years but it is now more important than ever to combine this with accountability and responsibility.
Overall, well-connected customer service organisations align three things: people, product and process across the whole value chain.
Those organisations who are investing in their culture and their people, are listening to customers and their employees, will be the ones who continue to achieve higher UKCSI results.
With so much happening, now is not the time to take your eye off the ball, but the time to look at your approach to customer service and see where changes can be made to help business performance improvements.