By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service
The arguments are over, the cases have been made and now the results of the election are in. Defying all predictions there is a clear outcome and the electorate have delivered a majority government after five years of coalition. Whilst the surprises sink in and the parties examine the new political realities there are still some uncertainties to consider. For me, this is particularly the case when examining the critical issue of customer service. It’s not just about whether our elected representatives will meet our needs, but what the election and the new government could mean for development of customer service skills in the UK and the resulting impact on business performance and GDP. I will be paying close attention over the coming months to the new government’s policy agenda and any proposals that come out to see what this means for the Institute and its members.
However, the election campaign has shown many themes across the parties that are very revealing of politicians thinking when it comes to customer service. In the utilities sector, for example, particularly for energy, there has been a relentless focus on the size of bills from all sides. But this is only part of the story for consumers. It is easy to suggest that customers are better served by lower bills but customers don’t just want the service to be all about the price. They want greater value, which covers more than the price, they need timely service, convenience, transparency and clarity over the billing process and, of course, reliability. Politicians, and many organisations for that matter, need to accept what consumers have known for a long time, yes price matters, but on its own it won’t move a customer closer to, or further away from, a particular supplier. What matters is the quality of service, the integrity of sales and support teams and the whole customer experience.
There is a similar story for financial services. The focus, at least through politicians’ eyes, is on structural reforms and regulations to prevent scandals, drive competition and protect the vulnerable. These are all important factors. The hope is that this will give customers the better deals they want and ensure consumers and business can access the finance they need. Again, this isn’t the whole story. The Institute’s own analysis shows that most consumers are not simply seeking the cheapest deal possible. Most customers want a balance of price and service but there is also a substantial minority, almost a quarter, who will consider paying a premium price for premium service. Only thorough research, like that conducted by The Institute, into what customers want in terms of service can help reveal these important insights. I will be continuing this year to work to build understanding amongst politicians of all parties and policy makers of customer service and the insights The Institute can provide on it.
Customers’ expectations are evolving rapidly. Some organisations have evolved too and are to at the forefront of a fully engaged relationship with their customers. However, it remains very much to be seen whether our political leaders have evolved too to take these considerations into account when setting policy and making regulations.