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Conceptual business story. Puzzle connection, teamwork abstract metaphor, partnership, collaboration, solving problem, effective business solution.

We live in a world where poor customer service is increasingly dominating the headlines. As I discussed with the Financial Times for the leader of this weekend’s FT Magazine, the collapse in service standards has cost UK plc billions and has eroded the patience and trust of consumers.

The portents – as also highlighted in our UK Customer Satisfaction Index – are not good and action certainly needs to be taken in many quarters.

Though amongst all this (mostly justified) doom and gloom, it was refreshing to see a recent success story showing what good looks like. The Sunday Times’ behind-the-scenes look at first direct, a bank which has performed consistently well in our UK Customer Satisfaction, was full of insights.

This type of story is important as it helps us all to remember why delivering brilliant service is so important, on so many levels, for the customer professionals who work tirelessly to deliver the organisation’s performance and of course the UK’s standing on the global stage. I think more than ever we need more good news stories to help us improve our wellbeing as a nation. So, what does customer service success look like?

A culture of service from the top down

Reflecting on the themes highlighted in the article, we gain valuable insights into what businesses such as first direct – second in our latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, do right.

The most apparent theme across all businesses that are doing service well is that it starts at the top. From the CEO down, these businesses place a focus on exceptional service. It is never just a department – it’s part of their DNA.

Looking at the lessons gleaned, The Sunday Times reports that the business places an onus on prioritising short waiting times for its customers. Their average call waiting time of just 39 seconds significantly outperforms the industry average of 8 minutes and 27 seconds.

Good organisations are also clear about the investment in their people, something I have talked about at length as a key driver for long-term success. Proper training and qualifications, combined with a drive to empower and listen to your people, are essential.

The article references a rigorous six-week training program for staff that ensures they are well-prepared to interact with customers, contributing to positive experiences.

Customer-focused businesses empower their representatives to engage authentically with customers. By treating each interaction as a human conversation rather than rigidly following scripts, you build trust and rapport.

Unsurprisingly, these are common themes amongst the organisations that rank in the top 10 of our UKCSI across many different sectors. Ocado, for example, is a business that is well-known for investing in its staff. Similarly, Jet2 and Nationwide are both known to emphasise customer experience, whichever channel customers engage them on.

How can organisations learn from this: pan-sector frameworks

One of the privileges of being the CEO of a pan-sector organisation is seeing what is working well across a whole range of different industries. Universally, where the company’s board drives a service-led culture, measures what is genuinely important to the customer, and fosters a culture that consistently delivers—whatever the sector—you will get the results you deserve.

In recent times, we have not planned as well as we should and certainly not focused on the workforce as much as we need to. As we move the service nation forward, we need to ensure we aren’t just ticking boxes that the regulator is asking us for, but genuinely and authentically thinking about how we deliver our purpose to the greater good.

By prioritising efficiency, investing in and empowering staff, fostering genuine connections, and integrating service into company culture, all organisations can make an impact – and play a part in making positive headlines for service the norm, not the exception.

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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