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BT Enterprise is a longstanding member of The Institute – since 1998. The business has been participating in NCSW for a number of years. But for NCSW 2019, they decided to really up their activity and also take advantage of their new internal social media platform Workplace to maximise engagement.

The Institute of Customer Service has running National Customer Service Week (NCSW) for many years now. For countless organisations across the UK, it has become a great focal point to celebrate excellent service and give recognition to their hardworking teams.


Since starting out from founder Jeremy Hyams’ front room in 1996, Claims Consortium Group has become something of a success story. Now employing nearly 300 people, primarily at their offices near Taunton in Somerset, the company provides property claims handling and claims workflow technologies working with the majority of the UK’s blue chip insurers. They specialise in claims for property damage from perils such as storm, flooding or fire. Integral to the group’s success has been a focus on customer service. You only have to read a short way down the homepage on their website before you come to the statement: ‘Customer service is the foundation of everything we do.’

Matt Brady, Group Managing Director, explains: “We’re very conscious that the customers we deal with are in a situation they didn’t want to be in. They’re often stressed and, having placed their policy with a blue chip insurer, have high expectations of service. So we put the emphasis on service right from the outset. For example, we ask our call centre staff to score a customer’s happiness from their very first call. This individualises the customer and places the focus on customer satisfaction straightaway.”

Service through the supply chain

However, customer service is not only delivered by Claims Consortium staff themselves, but also by the company’s network of partners, the contractors and surveyors that they employ to assess building damage and carry out work. As a result, the company works very closely with its partners and delivers customer service training to them through regional workshops. “We have a multi-layered operation and we need to get our supply chain to work in the same way as us,” Matt says. “In many ways, the most difficult part is getting the service ethos embedded into businesses that are not ours , so we work very hard at that.”

Linking it up

The majority of customer interaction is over the phone, but online is also growing fast as a channel. Overall, about a third of customers mainly use online, and for one insurer client, this rises to around 50% of their customers. Claims Consortium has developed a unique social media style portal called TrackMyClaim through which customers can communicate with parties involved in the claim and track the progress of the claim and repairs in real time. They can use it as an information source only or proactively post messages or add photos. An extension of this is Synergy, the company’s multi-enterprise software platform that brings all parties (not just the end customer) involved in the claims process together in real time, linking up everyone in the chain. “We’ve had around 1.5 million uses of Synergy so far since we launched it in 2015,” Matt says. “We think it’s a step-change in the industry. The system has also garnered outside recognition , such as winning the Institute of Customer Service’s Customer Satisfaction Innovation award in 2017.

Institute membership

The system has also garnered outside recognition, such as winning the Institute of Customer Service’s Customer Satisfaction Innovation award in 2017. Claims Consortium Group has been a member of the Institute since 2013 and, in 2016, achieved ServiceMark accreditation. They also use The Institute’s FirstImpressions customer service people development programme, run by their in house Learning and Development team.

Matt reflects: “Key to our business strategy is to invest in and develop our staff. We don’t have a ready market of insurance specialists around us here in Somerset so it’s essential that we train our people well ourselves and can retain our talent. We already had insurance qualifications that staff can do (through the Chartered Insurance Institute) but we needed something on the customer service side too, and the Institute fits the bill perfectly.”

Motivation and validation

The company didn’t rush in to doing ServiceMark, but ran the staff and customer surveys first to benchmark where they were before deciding to go for accreditation. Carly Eggar, Head of Accreditation and Certification at Claims Consortium, says: “We didn’t want to just chase badges and we realised that ServiceMark is not about badge collecting. We learned a lot through the surveys, of both our staff and our customers. For the customer surveys, we surveyed both our insurance company clients and their policyholder customers to get the fullest possible picture. A lot of the learnings related to the communication piece. It became very clear that although we were doing many of the right things as an organisation, we were at times failing to ensure that our staff and customers were kept as engaged as they should have been with changes we were making and the reasons behind them. This is something that we have worked extremely hard to address over the last few years and is an ongoing commitment.”

One of the biggest impacts of doing ServiceMark was internal, as Carly explains: “Staff found it really motivational to see that we were serious about benchmarking ourselves against the best. It gave them a greater sense of ownership too, that their views were being asked for and listened to. Gaining accreditation is like a validation, a sign of their efforts being recognised and rewarded. Since we did ServiceMark, staff have asked me when they’d be doing the survey again, so keen are they to be involved!”

When the assessor came in as part of the accreditation and interviewed around 25 staff, many of them were fairly nervous and didn’t know quite what to expect. But you could see their enthusiasm afterwards and how inspired they were. Meanwhile, First Impressions training has become part of the company’s on-boarding process and some 65 staff have been through it. Claims Consortium is also piloting the Institute’s more advanced Level 3 qualifications which were launched to the business as part of their National Customer Service Week celebrations and have received great levels of interest so far.

A ‘tie-breaker’

But it is not only on the internal side that the company has seen the benefits of its work with the Institute. Matt Brady says: “There has been at least one instance where we won a contract with an insurance client and our ServiceMark accreditation was one of the deciding factors. It was the tie-breaker if you like, that tipped the contract in our favour. Of course, winning new contracts or retaining existing ones is usually the result of multiple factors and complex scoring systems, but having the accreditation and being members of the Institute certainly helps” Matt also values some of the materials that the Institute produces, such as the ‘Customer of the Future‘ report which, he says, “helped me to think further about customer behaviours and therefore service strategies.” In the end, the goal as Matt sees it is quite simple: to provide a joined-up, professional service that satisfies the customer and therefore the end client. “The best we can do in fact is hardly to be noticed,” he says. “Our greatest compliment is when it’s been so effortless for the customer that they don’t even remember who we are or what we did!”

As autumn advances and the nights draw in, we all begin to switch our heating on to take the chill out of the air. But instead of wall-mounted radiators, more are turning on underfloor heating , a system that emits an even warmth through the floor.It’s something that’s becoming more widespread, and not only with more people pursuing self-build dreams of the type made popular by the TV show Grand Designs. It’s more affordable than some might think, costing around the same as luxury radiators, is more efficient and does away with those irritating cold spots! Based in Honiton, Devon, Nu-Heat is the UK’s largest supplier of designed underfloor heating systems.

The company started out in 1992 employing just a handful of people and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a team of more than 100. With over 70,000 systems installed, the company has also branched out into integrated renewables such as heat pumps and solar thermal systems.Nu-Heat designs bespoke systems for each project, working from house plans, and as well as single new build or renovation jobs, also works on bigger trade and commercial developments. The company works with a network of registered installers around the country.

Customer service journey

Customer service has always been important to the company and in 2014 it formalised this by becoming a member of the Institute of Customer Service. Christian Oram, Sales and Marketing Manager at Nu-Heat, explains: “We’ve always looked at the customer service journey throughout the process from first contact through to completion of a job. We pride ourselves on being an ethical sales company that takes a very consultative approach.

The industry has become more competitive over the years and we realised that bringing customer service to the forefront of what we do will improve customer satisfaction and give us a real competitive advantage. It is another way we can stand out from the crowd. The difference between eight out of ten and nine out of ten for customer satisfaction is huge.

On joining the Institute, Nu-Heat ran an initial benchmarking survey both externally and internally. The external results were pleasing, with a customer satisfaction score of 84.6%. Internally, however, it was much lower at 62.7%.”We realised that we had much more to do on the internal side,” Christian says. “Whether we were just being too harsh on ourselves, or whether we were not in fact communicating well enough through the company about the emphasis we place on customer service, it gave us the spur to up our efforts. So we began to increase the visibility of our customer service policies and processes, including beginning a formal feedback process internally for service challenges and successes.”

Steering a path

That wasn’t all the company did, though. “We also set up a Customer Service Steering Group, made up of Board members and senior management (including myself). The Steering Group sets strategy, looks at high level customer service challenges and discusses root causes. Then we created a Customer Service Focus Group made up of people from across departments to develop and implement any changes to our processes. In addition, we created internal customer service champions, started a recognition scheme and began sending out monthly customer feedback emails to all of our people.”

Nu-Heat then worked towards The Institute’s ServiceMark accreditation, and successfully gained it in December 2016. It is the only heating company in the UK to hold the accolade. Not only that, but the company achieved a Distinction, one of only a handful of companies in any sector to do so. The company’s external score had risen to 88.8% – a satisfying increase given that it was already starting from a high score, while the internal score shot up to 88.9%.

The ‘9 out of 10’ goal

“We were very pleased with this,” Christian says, “but we want to keep pushing ourselves to do better! We’d love to get to 90%. That’s why we’ve now embraced a ‘9 out of 10’ initiative where every member of staff sets themselves an improvement goal that would help us get to that 9 out of 10 score. It can be something big or small. For example, my first one was ‘Don’t interrupt people’ as I had a habit of doing that! My current one is ‘Establish a structure and process so everyone in my team is clear what their role is’. People have really embraced it well. Since joining The Institute, the customer service ethos has become firmly embedded in the company”.

Through following the advice of their Client Services Director at The Institute, every member of Christian’s 40-strong Sales and Marketing team, for example, has a customer service objective amongst their 4 or 5 key personal performance objectives for the year. The company’s HR manager has also become an accredited trainer to deliver The Institute’s FirstImpressions customer service training programme, and all of Nu-Heat’s people have been through it. “We’ve caught the training bug now!” Christian laughs. “FirstImpressions was our first company-wide learning and development training and now we’re rolling out leadership training too.” The company also actively participates in National Customer Service Week (1st week of October) with a variety of team-building and recognition activities through the week. “We’ve taken part for the last three years now,” Christian says. “It’s something we look forward to and everyone can enjoy.”

Happy returns

Christian is also clear that there has been a real return on investment for Nu-Heat from working with The Institute. The company has grown market share steadily through the last three years. Externally, repeat business on the trade side has grown by around 15%. Internally, as engagement scores have risen so sick leave has dropped significantly down by around a half. “There’s no doubt that membership has been really good for us. We make the most of it, with our ServiceMark Distinction accreditation on all our quotes, our website, our brochures and our trade show stands. Customers notice it and comment on it. It’s a point of differentiation, a real USP. Internally too, it has proved its worth. People like working for a company that is genuinely trying to be the best it can be. They want to be a part of that and are motivated when they can see you are listening to them and valuing their point of view.”

When BMW Group used National Customer Service Week to spread its service culture across 153 retail sites, the results took everyone by surprise. BMW Group is one of the most recognised motor manufacturers in the world. Last year, the company sold 130,000 BMWs, 60,000 MINIs and 8,000 motorcycles in the UK alone. In fact, there are around two million BMW drivers across the country, with new sales every day.

Culture is the biggest challenge

As premium brands, BMW and MINI’s customers expect consistently exceptional customer service, and as General Manager for Customer Experience, it’s Mark Crandon’s job to deliver just that. Along with his team, Mark supports and manages BMW Group’s relationship with 153 retail centres around the UK. This means there are roughly 11,000 people in a variety of roles, largely working for independent companies, who need to live and breathe BMW and MINI’s culture. “We have standards and franchise agreements which means that the centres look right and everyone is trained to a high level,” explains Mark. “However management and consistency of culture is a soft, intangible element that varies, so this is the biggest challenge for us.”

Championing the cause

To support that process, BMW and MINI have been members of The Institute of Customer Service for six years, drawing upon its information, guidance and research. Mark says BMW and MINI are firmly aligned with The Institute’s ethos: “They champion the cause for customer experience. There’s real value in being able to look across industries and see the trends, initiatives and innovations in other sectors, and how that compares with our own operations. The Institute produces rankings every six months and these are great for us to measure ourselves against, not just within the automotive industry but with other fantastic brands in the retail sector. Customers compare us to all their retail experiences, not just buying cars.”

Energising the organisation

In October 2014, BMW decided to take part in National Customer Service Week (NCSW). As a week-long opportunity to motivate and engage employees while raising awareness of customer service, Mark and his team saw the huge potential for NCSW to remind dealership staff of the importance of putting the customer first. He says: “All our centres pride themselves on the effort they place on customer experiences; it’s something that’s continually evolving. NCSW was a great opportunity to pull together everything we’ve been doing in the customer area over last couple of years, introduce new ideas and really energise our organisation. I met with The Institute’s Account Director, Sue Hopson, who took us through the process, so when we then set up our own internal workshops to develop themes for the week, we had a good understanding about what it would entail.”

Mark’s team created the role of a Customer Ambassador at each site, and sent out 190 NCSW kits full of motivational games and activities. For the centre’s employees there were guides and instructions, coupled with live webinars hosted by company directors each day, and a microsite where they could share best practice, get resources, read inspiring stories and gain ideas from other industries. A daily ‘director’s challenge’ gave the opportunity to win prizes, like champagne, an iPad or a BMW i8 for the weekend. “Although the team hoped the initiative would be embraced, the volume of the response was unexpected.”

An incredible response

Immediately, the microsite exploded with activity, as NCSW caught the imagination of dealership teams across the UK. “We could not have predicted what an incredible response we would have from our retail network,” recalls Mark. “We had over 16,000 page hits, 4,000 separate users logging in, over 500 photos uploaded, 120 videos and 180 blog stories. One centre put together an incredible video that highlighted the efforts they’d gone to that week to give customers great experiences. In fact, the microsite was so busy that we had to change the hosting before it crashed.”

To round off the week in style, one person from each centre was nominated for their customer service. BMW invited eight regional winners to its national dealer conference, and presented them with The Institute’s official trophy for customer service.

Small things make a big impact

The goal for Mark was to use NCSW to engage retailers and embed customer focus for the long-term. This is exactly what has happened. The microsite, which started out as a week-long initiative, soon became a longer term resource. He says: “The microsite’s a great tool. There was a huge outcry to leave it live, so we extended the project and intend to use it as a more permanent platform for people to share ideas.”

Mark believes it was important that BMW and MINI took time to celebrate all efforts on customers’ behalf, no matter how small. “We learnt a lot about what we can do better. It hasn’t just been about big picture customer service ideas. For example, one customer mentioned that they couldn’t enjoy the complimentary pastries at the dealership as they were gluten intolerant. The next day, without prompting, a team member went out and bought gluten-free alternatives. Small things like that make a big impact on how customers feel about you, and that’s the culture we want at all our sites.” Mark is delighted with the impact of the activity, and his team are already busy planning for the next National Customer Service Week. He concludes: “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback in our customer experience training. People are already asking me what we’re doing this year!”

Looking after the fibre, copper wires and cables that keep the country connected, Openreach is the guardian of a critical national asset. These days, no one can operate without broadband connectivity and the telecom infrastructure across which digital services run. Openreach maintains the local access network that covers 30 million customers in the UK. Over 500 communications providers rely on the Openreach network to deliver telephone, internet, data and TV services to their customers at home and work.

Openreach engineers make a staggering 185,000 customer visits every week on behalf of communications providers. As Imran Patel, Director of National Operations and TV at Openreach, explains, providing excellent customer service is central to their mission: “One of the cornerstones of our strategy of Building Britain’s Connected Future is being trusted to deliver and we’re very conscious that we’re delivering a service that people absolutely rely on. So the service that we offer has to be right every time.”

NCSW “ a perfect opportunity

Openreach has long-standing membership of the Institute through BT Group. Having entered, and won, an award in the National Customer Service Awards for ‘best application of technology’ earlier in 2015, the company had begun to get more involved with Institute activities. And National Customer Service Week (NCSW) seemed like another great initiative to get behind. ‘When we heard about NCSW, it felt like a perfect opportunity to galvanise our staff around our customer service mission”, Imran said. “We saw it as a way of really getting momentum going, to engage the organisation and create a link for people to understand where we are aiming to get to for our customers.”

Openreach’s 26,000+ engineers are certainly key to its interactions with customers, but it’s not only about engineers. The company also has around 4,000 staff that provide desk-based customer support in its service centres. “It would have been easy to focus everything on our engineers, but we wanted to include everyone because the whole team has a huge part to play”, Imran observed. “Our service centres have significant amounts of contact via phone and email with communications providers, so we wanted to take a really all-encompassing approach.”

Social media at the heart

They decided to make it a truly interactive week, to engage and involve as many people as possible, and put their internal social media channel at the heart of activity, as well as promoting it on their internal radio service, Reach 365. The company developed a comprehensive plan of activities for the week, building on the templates and suggestions that the Institute provided. “There was a very helpful newsletter from the Institute both in the run-up to the week and during it”, Imran said. “They provided access to case studies of what other organisations had done previously. We spoke to our relationship manager to get feedback and help shape our approach.”

The result was a very busy week with a different focus each day, all promoted via social media and other channels:

  • Monday: a launchpad for the week, highlighting some of the key themes ahead and including a Know Your Customer focus, asking employees to share examples of how they had prepared for customer visits;
  • Tuesday: with a theme of Dealing with Complaints, the focus was a positive one on what staff had learned, seeking examples of how they had turned complaints around and sharing these via their social media platform;
  • Wednesday: centered on Return on Investment, the emphasis being on new technology Openreach had invested in such as ‘View my Engineer’ which delivers text notifications to customers to let them know when the engineer will visit, asking for ways in which it had improved customer service, as well as being an opportunity to promote the ‘Your Voice’ campaign in which engineers could suggest how technology could be developed in terms of new apps and functionality;
  • Thursday: focused on Teamwork, building employee engagement by asking people to recognise their colleagues around projects and also undertake ‘job swaps’ to understand what their colleagues do;
  • Friday: recognition day, in which a series of spot prizes were announced by senior management in a kind of ‘drum beat’ throughout the day for those who had gone ‘above and beyond’ service.

An uplift in satisfaction

Gratifyingly, there was an increase in engineer satisfaction results by 1.1% once the week was finished. This small percentage increase in fact translates to significant numbers of people when you consider Openreach’s 185,000 customer site visits a week. There’s no doubt that NCSW created a real headwind around customer service and has genuinely boosted employee engagement. “It’s definitely helped us to win hearts and minds and strengthen a customer-first ethos where people go the extra mile for the customer.

Looking to the future

Such was the success of NCSW, Imran is in no doubt about next year. “We’ll definitely take part again in 2016”, he said. “Indeed, we are planning to speak to our communications provider customers about it with a view to maybe getting them involved. It’s had great results for us this year, so we want to take it even further next time!”

As one of the biggest fashion retailers in the UK getting customer service right has become increasingly important for New Look. With 569 branches in the UK, and a further 200 internationally, the company has 20,000 employees globally, of whom 18,000 are directly customer facing in stores. These employees, together with staff in customer contact centres, are the vital face of New Look in delivering friendly and efficient service to a largely young (Millennial) customer base. While the great majority of New Look’s sales come through its stores (around 86% in their last financial year), online and mobile channels are becoming ever more crucial, and are driving a change in customer expectations in terms of service.

A social experience

As Louise Moghaddam, Senior Group Customer Service Manager, explains: “The more people shop or browse online, the more stores have to provide an experience, a social element, to complement the online experience. Customers have a greater expectation around receiving style advice from staff in-store, or may come in with friends to sit on the sofas and give each other opinions on outfits, all the while tweeting or taking selfies.”

Louise, who is responsible for customer service across all channels at New Look and reports directly in to the UK Managing Director, says: “Our stores have to be more than just transactional retail environments now. They have to reflect that social dimension and so customer service has become a vital part of the whole experience.” As a result, there has been a growing emphasis on customer service at New Look over the last couple of years. The company launched a new service strategy and became members of the Institute of Customer Service in the summer of 2014. They’ve attended a number of the Institute’s seminars and networking events.

Service at the heart of the agenda

When they heard about National Customer Service Week (NCSW), they were keen to take part. “I had actually been involved in NCSW at a previous employer myself. It felt like a great opportunity to talk to all our staff directly about customer service with one consistent message across our operations. We saw the opportunity to put service right at the heart of the agenda.” Their approach to the week was centred around the company’s New Look staff Twitter account, a ‘protected’ account on Twitter that only members of staff can follow and interact with.

Louise explains: “We followed the broad themes set out by the Institute for each day, starting the conversation off with a couple of tweets at the beginning of the day and then sharing and retweeting replies. We also made sure to share compliments received through our contact centres from customers about great service they’d had, putting an emphasis on positive mentions.” The week provided an opportunity to encourage more staff to follow the staff Twitter account , and it clearly worked, with numbers rising 15%.

Massively impactful

It wasn’t just a case of increasing followers. NCSW turned out to be the biggest story of the year on the staff Twitter account, with more tweets and interactions than on any other story. “It was massively impactful,” Louise said. They used a hashtag for the week – #NewLookMakeMyDay, and incentivised staff to get involved by giving instant rewards for examples of great service, both by giving branches a small budget for treats for the week and by sending out 100 giant Millies cookies across the five days! “It’s often the little things,” Louise reflects. “People were really excited when they got a giant cookie and were taking selfies with them and posting them on Twitter, and sometimes getting customers into the pictures too!” They made sure contact centre staff were involved and rewarded as well. Service during the week also counted towards their existing certificate and badge scheme.

Catalyst for improvement

The week itself was fun and very active, but did it provide any longer term benefits? And did customers notice the difference? Happily, there was a resounding ‘yes’ on both counts. “The results were fantastic, better than we could have expected,” Louise says. “Customer satisfaction as measured during the week through feedback forms rose by 2% to 82%. What’s even better is that it hasn’t dropped below 80% since. So NCSW was the catalyst for us breaking the 80% barrier. We even maintained it in December when satisfaction usually dips, as it does for every retailer simply because it’s so busy.” In fact, it went up in December to 83%. “Customer ratings across all our key criteria (such as ‘made me feel welcome’ or ‘was greeted with a smile’) went up, as did the proportion of what we call WOW’s, which is when customers single out individuals for praise. At the same time, the number of customer ‘rescues’ needed, when a customer has a complaint and asks for us to help them with it, fell. So we have concrete evidence that NCSW made a difference, and a lasting one too.”

Bigger next year

“We definitely plan to take part again next year and indeed we want to do it on a bigger scale,” Louise says. “We also want to get the Board even more involved. They were very engaged this year, with a number of directors either joining calls in the contact centre or going out to stores to take part, but next year I want to have more of that. NCSW has helped us prove the value of customer service because of the visible reaction from customers. We’ve shown that service is not just a soft thing, there’s real value in it.”

Whether it’s known as Marks & Spencer, ‘Marks and Sparks’, or simply ‘Marks’, the M&S brand is an icon of the UK retail environment. Like any brand that has stood the test of time, M&S has had to change with the times. In 2004, the business embarked on a strategy to infuse what had been a ‘product-centric’ approach with a culture of customer service. That strategic drive remains in place to this day, reflecting the wider move in UK businesses towards the new, ‘relationship economy’. As Head of Customer Service at M&S, Jo Moran was originally in charge of promoting high standards of service in the traditional retail arm of the business, but since 2008 has taken on responsibility for the entire organisation.

Great service is part of the brand

Jo heads up a management team that focuses on customer service centres, together with a smaller team that focuses on the retail experience. Both teams are geared around ensuring all M&S employees deliver the consistently great customer experience that is so much a part of its brand. While the service values are consistent, there is huge range and variety in how they might be delivered. As Jo says: “I’m responsible for customer service across the brand. How that looks and feels in our store, in our customer service centres, customer contact by phone or email, letters, social media, even down to the home deliveries experience.” With the challenge of ensuring customers experience the same service values across all these touch points, Jo and her team use The Institute of Customer Service’s National Customer Service Week (NCSW) to remind everyone that they are truly involved.

A drumbeat throughout the week

NCSW runs during the first full week of October and M&S have been taking part since 2012. Jo describes it as ‘a marker in the diary that you know everyone is going to get behind.’ “Each year has been better than the last, both in terms of the NCSW experience and its business outcomes for M&S.” She says: “This year has clearly been the best yet. The support and structure coming out from The Institute provided a real drumbeat throughout the week, that we could build around.” Jo announced the NCSW early to her heads of region and frontline managers with both emails and conference calls. “We had a longer run-in around the communication of the week” she recalls, “so we could galvanise people and do more around recognition and rewarding great service.”

A framework for engagement

M&S used themes The Institute provided, running from ‘understanding your customers’ and ‘dealing with problems’ to ‘recognising the business impact of customer service’, to generate a toolkit suggesting daily activities for retail stores and service centres. Meanwhile, for the duration of the week, M&S used its internal social network, Yammer, as the place for employees to share their customer service stories and experiences and a budget was raised to reward customer service excellence wherever it was found. In just seven days, M&S recognised and rewarded 567 individuals who had provided exceptional customer service. The national event provided a framework to further promote customer service within the company and see staff actively engage with its values.

I can see the return on investment

M&S has been a member of The Institute for the last five years, and has just renewed that membership for a further four, to gain further assistance as the business continues to move with the times. Being a retailer with one foot on the High Street and one foot in the digital space brings its own particular challenges. “Online is a faster moving environment” says Jo. “How do we act in a more agile and responsive way on customer feedback particularly in regard to social media? They are ahead of us in terms of multi-channel; customers think multi-channel just as a matter of course, and how we join that experience up is really important.”

Jo believes the best approach is to take a broad view, using insights from The Institute to spot examples of good practice wherever they may be. Meanwhile, the company’s own training materials are accredited by The Institute, to ensure they always reflect the latest research. “It’s essential to look outside your own sector” says Jo. “The Institute gives us an independent, UK-wide perspective on customer service. And it’s valuable to get that external review and verification on how our people are trained.” Ultimately, it was Jo’s decision to renew M&S’s Institute membership “ it wasn’t a difficult choice. I can see the return on investment from the work we’ve done so far” she says. “I was happy to sign that budget off.”

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