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As we settle back into normality after the festive break, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. I hope you were able to enjoy some downtime with friends and family.

If the first few days of 2023 are anything to go by, we look forward to a new year filled with as much volatility, uncertainty and upheaval as the last. As rising inflation threatens to keep the nation stuck in recession for some time, the ongoing cost of living crisis continues to put a squeeze on households, and widespread industrial action causes chaos across our transport and broader public services – it is clear the climate in 2023 could be as unpredictable as any of the last few years.

And whilst we must of course stay braced for the challenges to come, we shouldn’t get too caught up in the spiral of negative headlines. As we enter a new year – it is our job as leaders to inspire our teams and lead them on the right path for the future. The past few years have been testing in many ways, and the fight to stay relevant to customers and ahead of the competition is continuous. We must draw on the passion, determination and innovative thinking that has seen us through this far and channel our efforts into building a true service nation.

Whilst 2023 will present myriad challenges for organisations to service their customer base effectively, there will be many opportunities. As the economic and societal backdrop drives more customers than ever before to rely on service and support from organisations, we have an opportunity to showcase the vital role effective customer experience plays in our economy.

What’s more, turbulent times give us the chance to explore new ways of doing things and now is the time to challenge ourselves to think creatively. How can we continue to serve an increasingly polarised customer base without risking alienating any one group? How can we effectively utilise the technological solutions at our disposal to manage rising service requirements, without damaging relationships with those in vulnerable or sensitive situations (or who simply place high value on the human touch)? How can we tackle resourcing challenges to ensure we have adequate committed staff to manage the increasingly busy and complex service requirements of our customers? Where should we focus our efforts to bring our purpose to the fore, and how do we ensure this is agile and relevant to reflect the trends we are seeing this year?

I urge us as leaders to look at the trends we have highlighted and spend time considering how we are responding in our organisations to these and where we should be focusing our pressured resources, so all feel galvanised and inspired.

Addressing these questions – and more – will require considered, intelligent thinking and long-term planning – and I do not mean to downplay the difficulties that lie ahead. But if we get the answers right – and take the time to re-set, refocus and look at situations with a long-term lens, I truly believe we can come out of this year with a renewed opportunity to build a service nation that is the envy of the world.

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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