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After a decade of unprecedented challenges and disruptions, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the “green shoots of recovery” last week should be a cause for optimism for businesses across the UK. But with the ongoing pressures of rising costs, supply chain bottlenecks and geopolitical uncertainty, business leaders may well feel it is too soon to celebrate.

Looking closely at some of the data out this week, there are some positive signs of stabilisation and recovery, particularly in the retail sector; grocery inflation has dropped to its lowest level in two years (City AM), indicating that supply chain issues are easing and product availability is improving.

Meanwhile, Ocado, the online grocery retailer and the top-ranked business in our latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, reported better than expected results (notwithstanding a payment dispute with their JV partners, M&S) including a return to positive EBITDA (Retail Gazette).

These examples show some glimmers of a recovery emerging. In the short term though, my advice to business leaders would be to focus less on political rhetoric and remain committed to doing the things that helped them successfully navigate this past decade of change – most notably, focusing on their customers.

The resilience of UK business

One of the silver linings from any period of economic turbulence is the stories of resilience and innovation shown by many businesses in adapting to the changing needs and expectations of their customers.

From adapting business models around the pandemic to evolving with the changes brought about by AI and shifts in customer demands, this is a period that will be studied with fascination by future MBA students.

One of the key lessons that I hope business leaders take away from this turbulent period is the importance of collaboration – not just within their own organisations, but across sectors and industries.

At the Institute, we have always advocated for cross-sector collaboration. We believe it is the best way to drive excellence in customer service and to benefit consumers and the economy.

Success in collaboration

Through the work we do, we have seen many examples of successful collaboration in the past decade. One example is the UK Regulators Network (UKRN), which brings together regulators from various sectors in the UK to share best practices and promote consumer interests.

Another is our Service with Respect Campaign, which has united public-facing workers, business leaders, and policymakers from many different political parties to tackle the unacceptable rise in abuse against service workers.

This coming together of minds is why we are always so pleased to convene business leaders for our Annual Conference, which takes place on 12 March 2024. This year, we will look at the state of the service nation and delve into difficult questions about the future of business, from the role of AI in customer service today to what the world will look like in 2050.

Following the conference we also have the UK Customer Satisfaction Awards, which recognise and celebrate the achievements of businesses and individuals who have delivered outstanding customer service. This is a great way to see, hear and learn from the best in the business, and to be inspired by their stories and examples.

Over 1,000 of you attend these events each year. I look forward to seeing many of you this year and hearing your views and experiences on how we can work together to create a better service nation.

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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