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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

“It’s National Customer Service Week (NCSW) from 7 to 11 October 2019. Every year, I am impressed and motivated to see so many organisations around the country embracing it and celebrating their commitment to the customer service agenda. This year, that feels more important than ever. There are so many uncertainties around us as Brexit draws nearer, while the competitive environment remains undeniably tough. The lengthening list of corporate casualties bears witness to that.

With so much going on that businesses have little or no influence over, the focus needs to fall on managing what they can control. Pursuing customer service excellence and putting the customer experience at the heart of the corporate purpose is one such thing. And indeed, it is not just a ‘nice to have’ “it cuts to the heart of business performance. As our research has shown, those organisations that outperform in terms of customer satisfaction outperform in revenue growth too.

So, I hope that this year more than ever organisations across the UK will celebrate NCSW and also think really hard about how they can put the customer agenda at the centre of what they do all year round.

I hope that NCSW will once again enable businesses to focus on customer service as both an operational and a strategic priority, aided by the different themes of each day. These themes are all key in their own right, and collectively contribute to a fully rounded customer service approach.

The week starts with a focus on Insight, because knowing your customer and how to deliver to them is where service has to start.

On Tuesday, Capability and Skills will provide the theme, since despite the growing use of technology and automation for transactional service, human empathy and communication skills clearly remain essential to delivering a positive customer experience.
The third day is all about Recognition – celebrating the hard work and commitment of staff across the business in whatever way they contribute to the customer agenda.

On Thursday, the focus turns to Leadership. This is fundamental because customer service doesn’t just sit in one department: it is a mindset and a culture that needs to be led from the top, with strategic decision making driving the right customer outcomes.
Finally, on Friday the theme will be Trust. In an age of fake news and declining faith in authorities and institutions, building trust is critical: those organisations that can build open and honest relationships with their customers will create a competitive and commercial advantage.

For our part at The Institute, it will be an extremely busy week. On Tuesday 8th, we will be publishing new research into recruitment and retention that shows this has become a key issue keeping many business leaders awake at night. Attracting and retaining the right people in order to build and deliver on the customer agenda has become a real challenge – and almost half of all recruitment fails according to the executives we surveyed.

On the Wednesday, we will be hosting a lunch at the House of Commons for the 15 organisations that have gained our ServiceMark accreditation with distinction. Gaining ServiceMark is tough enough in itself, but to do so with distinction is a fantastic accomplishment.

It won’t stop there because on the next day I will be hosting a roundtable discussion with business leaders on customer service and the High Street. We’ve invited senior figures from retailers, banks, telcos and other businesses with a High Street presence to discuss ways in which having a physical presence, and serving customers through it, can create more community-led environments. We plan to feedback the main conclusions from the discussion to a future All Parliamentary Group on Customer Service.

It’s going to be another packed NCSW. I hope the thousands of organisations taking part will both enjoy it and use it to cement the importance of customer service across the whole business. To really be useful, the week needs to have a resonance and longevity beyond itself. When the week is over, the question organisations should be asking themselves is: “How are we going to maintain and embed what we have focused on this week and make it business as usual?”

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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