Citizens, complaints and customer service

2nd Jul 2015


Minutes of the meeting of All Party Parliamentary Group on Customer Service - 5-6pm, Tuesday 24 November 2015 


Philip Davies (co-chair)
Calum Kerr
Craig Tracey
Jeremy Lefroy
Chi Onwurah
Amanda Milling


Jo Moran, Head of Customer Service, Marks &Spencer
Joanna Causon, Chief Executive, The Institute of Customer Service


Jonathan Cowie, Chief Executive, CityWest Homes
Stephen Orme, Customer Service Director, BPI Recycled Products
Rodney Assock, Operational Services Director, LV=
Stephanie Smith, Director - Operations, Retail,Allianz Insurance
Renata Collinge, Head of Customer Experience,Allianz Insurance
James Kennedy, Project Manager - Sales Organisations, Lidl
Adam Crossley, Business Transformation Director,Skanska
Gary Mansfield, Business Services Manager, Skanska
Mark Gait, Head of Customer Service, Telefónica UK Limited
Leah Fry, Head of Customer Strategy and Experience,Severn Trent
Alia Harris, Client First, Lloyds Bank
Mark Tustian, Director Client First, Lloyds Bank
Debra Montague, Pfizer
Andrea Luker, CityWest Homes


1.    Welcome by Philip Davies

Mr Davies welcomed participants to the meeting and opened the session. He said everyone present was passionate about customerservice and the purpose of the group was to ‘shine a light’ on both good andpoor practice, with the aim of improving customer service levels across the UK.

2.  Election of officers  - Joanna Causon, Chief Executive, The Institute of Customer Service

Jo Causon noted that four Parliamentarians had expressed an interest in being an officer of the group:

- Philip Davies - to become co-chair
- Steve Reed - to become co-chair
- Mark Garnier - to become vice-chair
- Lord Scriven - to become vice-chair

Upon requests for further nominations, Amanda Milling also put herself forward to become a vice chair of the group.

There were no objections to the nominations and the group unanimously elected the five officers.

3.  Jo Moran, Head of Customer Service, Marks& Spencer - What leads people to complain and what drives customer satisfaction?

Jo Moran gave an overview of Marks & Spencer’s experience with customer service and offered best practice advice.

She noted that customers complain for three reasons: feeling let down, frustration with organisations failing to meet brand expectations, and product or service failure. The top things they complain about are: product availability,poor processes (it being too hard work or too time consuming to do something), and the attitude of staff providing the service.

Moran commented that the key matters Marks & Spencer had focused on to improve the customer experience were:

Moran concluded by saying that there has been a clear improvement as a result of this work. Marks& Spencer uses customer satisfaction surveys in store and there has been a 5% increase in satisfaction levels.


4.Q&A chaired by Philip Davies


Jonathan Cowie asked: how do you get people to empathise with customers? Jo Moran commented that most aspects of customer service are commonsense.  Marks & Spencer uses role play to encourage staff to think about how they would feel in certain situations. This also had the advantage of giving staff practice dealing with those situations. They also used mystery shoppers recording staff interactions as a training tool.

Performance management

Mark Tustian asked how customer satisfactions results fed into the assessment and performance management of staff. Jo Moran said that at Marks & Spencer management performance was assessed and bonuses awarded based equally on four areas: sales, service, costs, and people. Front line staff were awarded a bonus based on the satisfaction levels in the store they worked in – this gave them buy-in to improving customer service where they worked.


There were several questions around how surveys were construed, what they covered, and how comprehensive they were. Jo Moran said that for Marks & Spencer the store surveys were based on the four things that are important to customers: friendly helpful staff, staff availability to help, staff that are knowledgeable and being able to pay quickly. These were supplemented by an overall satisfaction level score. Around 15,000-20,000 surveys were conducted each week. They also did ‘exit surveys’ on those who had been in the store but not purchased anything.

Jo Causon noted that this was good practice as,according to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, the key areas to focus on to improve customer service were: professionalism of staff including capability and competence, ease of doing business, product and service quality – the overall experience,timelines and problem solving and complaint handling.

Ease of returning products

Philip Davies noted that it appeared that food retailers were better at customer service than clothing retailers. He suggested that this was perhaps because of the different value of the individual products and the cost of simply replacing them when a customer complained. Jo Moran noted it makes sense to make returning products easy to encourage repeat custom.

Board buy-in

Jo Causon noted the importance of getting Boards to buy in to the importance of customer service for the strategic development of the business. Jo Moran noted that they used the service level and business measures and case studies developed by the Institute to help demonstrate there turn on investment in other sectors, to gain board level buy-in.

Social media

Calum Kerr asked whether Marks & Spencer monitored social media for comments and complaints. Jo Moran said that they did engage on social media but that it was important to do so carefully. She also cautioned that it was important not to treat customers who complain via social media more favourably than those who complain privately.

Complaints and expectations

Stephanie Smith noted that there is an increasing tendency to complain and a culture of complaints and compensation. Jo Moran noted that not all customers were seeking compensation and that often they just wanted acknowledgement that something went wrong. 

Jo Causon highlighted the growing expectations of customers and the consequent importance of improving customer service skills to the whole economy. She also noted that not all complainants want compensation and cautioned against leaders taking an overly defensive approach. The Institute of Customer Services report Leading by Example shows that in some organisations there appears to be a significant mismatch between board level understanding of customer service and those on the front line delivering it. However there were a number of leading organisations that were getting this right across the whole service value chain, driving an enhanced service experience and their overall performance over a sustained period demonstrated this. 


Philip Davies then closed the meeting encouraging all observers to work with Parliamentarians in whatever ways were needed to improve customer service in their organisations. 

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