We asked Jo for her thoughts on three questions:
What key trends have emerged this year?
What have been the highlights for the Institute over the past year?
What are you looking forward to this year?
What key trends have emerged this year?
2013/14 has been an important year in the development of customer service. We are starting to see a greater understanding of this subject as a key board room issue; which is critical particularly as customer satisfaction as measured by the UKCSI has fallen for the first time in 5 years. The challenge as the economy moves into growth is for organisations to stay focused on service as a key differentiator for long term business success and not to be seduced into focusing purely on the sales numbers. The evidence that the Institute has gathered throughout the year demonstrates a clear correlation between financial performance and a focus on customer service; more organisations are understanding that service success is a predictive indicator.
Certainly throughout the year we have seen customers become more demanding as they have less monies in their pockets and greater choice and ways of expressing their opinions on an organisation. We are less tolerant of poor service and I do believe in some cases organisations have failed to step-up quickly enough to manage a more diverse and complex set of customer needs; greater insight into these needs will be crucial as we move forward into an increasingly competitive environment. If I look at the UKCSI results it is clear that there are a number of winners and losers and I believe this will continue.
What have been the highlights for the Institute?
The Institute has had a very strong year and we have continued to grow our membership by a further 10%. We are never complacent and it is important that we listen to our customers needs. This is why we have invested in product development, our research and insight capabilities as well as enhancing and building on our own skills, capabilities, systems and processes. There will be more work to do in this area as we move forward. We will continue to review the needs of our members and ensure that the membership utilise all of the benefits available, in turn enabling them to improve their customer service strategies. We have continued to build on our quality assurance and enhanced ServiceMark, our qualifications and created a new Business Benchmarking Survey. A key aspect of the Institute is our thought leadership and we have built upon this with a robust and I believe insightful research agenda. The latest research on business models was particularly interesting as we asked whether certain types of governance structures produced different customer outcomes. The results demonstrated that service leadership is critical to seeing service not as a department but the key responsibility of the board. Different models have different strengths and weaknesses and there is much that can be learnt from each of these.
What am I looking forward to this year?
I am always struck by how fast time flies and we are already into another financial year. For me 2014/15 is a year to build on our achievements and continue to develop our products and services (we will be launching our international offering in the first quarter of the year) as well as ensuring that we are fit for purpose in terms of our processes and systems. Thought leadership will continue to be a critical area and we have some strong pieces of research already in the pipeline – measurement a key topic, specific sector research – in particular the utilities and public sector as well as breakthrough research on leadership, skills and the relationship economy. Engaging with our members and supporting them as they move forward with their customer service strategies and plans as well as continuing the work on proving the business case for customer service. In addition, further work will take place with all political parties to increase the understanding of how important customer service is to the UK economy and the skills that will be required as we look forward.
I will, of course, be sharing more about our results and future plans at the next AGM in July and I hope to see as many of our members there.
I would also like to thank and acknowledge our members for their support and commitment to what I believe is a critical subject that in turn will help to build sustainable business performance and ensure that the UK can continue to operate in a hugely competitive global landscape.