Time for customer service in Apprenticeships?

3rd Oct 2016

A renewed focus on skills is an opportunity to ensure all apprenticeships include vital customer service skills

The Government has adopted a long-term commitment to supporting the expansion, funding, and promotion of apprenticeship schemes. This is part of a wider focus to ensure Britain’s skills-based economy remains competitive, especially relevant following the Brexit vote.

In addition, the Prime Minister has been clear that she wants to create a country that works for everyone. A crucial part of this will be apprenticeships which will give more young people from poorer backgrounds the opportunity to get new skills and find meaningful and lasting employment.  

As part of this renewed commitment, The Government are introducing the new apprenticeships levy from May 2017 that will see large businesses with pay bills in excess of £3 million a year paying 0.5% of that pay bill towards the cost of providing apprenticeships. It is also creating the Institute of Apprenticeships to regulate apprenticeship standards and ensure apprenticeships better reflect the needs and requirements of employers.

Given the changes to funding and oversight of apprenticeships, there is now a real opportunity for customer service skills to be included as a fundamental part of all apprenticeship programmes to a consistent standard.

The figures, complied by The Institute for Customer Service, speak for themselves: 1 in 6 customers experience poor customer service at least once a week and 84% of customers think those working in customer service-related roles require more training.[1]

Not only will improved customer service skills benefit employees through helping to advance their careers and their earning potential but it is an excellent return on investment for business through better trained and motivated staff in customer-facing roles.

The benefit for the wider economy is also clear. With 70% of the UK’s workforce operating in customer-facing roles investment in the customer service skills of apprentices will lead to an upskilled workforce as they carry those vital transferable skills with them through their working lives. [2]

The Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Robert Halfron, has already spoken about the need to improve the quality of apprenticeships and ensure that the skills they equip people with are relevant to business and are transferable. With business already reporting difficulties in recruiting staff because 1 in 3 lack appropriate customer handling skills now is the time to ensure that customer service skills are put at the heart of all apprenticeships standards.[3] This will be a key priority for The Institute of Customer Service in the coming months.

[1] Research carried out on behalf of The Institute of Customer Service by TLF Research in May 2016 using an online panel. There were 2,014 respondents in total.

[2] Unpublished research by the Institute of Customer Service research, 2013

[3] UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Employer Skills Survey 2015: UK Results, (January 2016), Fig 2.5 p43

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