Focus on service and fight off the competition

3rd Feb 2016

Customer service plays a key role in helping businesses achieve a competitive advantage. During the Institute of Customer Service’s annual conference in 2012, British business leader Sir John Banham argued that a company’s customer service performance is often an indicator of its future growth. Four years on, we reveal the service areas that continue to give customer-facing organisations an edge over their competitors.

Empowering customers 

Particularly in challenging economic times, improved customer service through empowered people is the key to survival, and enables companies to emerge as stronger, better businesses. MP Norman Lamb highlighted this back in 2012, but the idea still resonates today. “Empowered consumers are the catalyst for growth in industry,” he said. “A consumer who is able to make informed decisions about the goods and services they require is one who will push for better quality and service.” 

Employee engagement 

Engaged staff are also key to competitive success, enabling companies to bring better, more innovative services to market. According to David MacLeod, co-chair of a Government-sponsored task force on employee engagement, there are four hallmarks of effective engagement. Successful companies will have a coherent strategic narrative; managers who coach and stretch their people and treat them as individuals; an environment where employee feedback is encouraged; and consistency between leadership values and behaviours.

Taking an interest

However, an empowered and engaged workforce won’t get you very far if commitment to the customer doesn’t permeate the whole organisation. 

According to Fred Sirieix, general manager of Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant Galvin at Windows, the secret to this is thinking about what it’s like to be in the guests’ shoes. “It’s all about the magic touch,” he explained during our conference four years ago. “Nobody knows when good service is happening – they just feel it.” Taking a real and authentic interest in customers is just as significant today, and creates an experience that positively influences the perception of a company.

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