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No Matter Who Takes the Helm This Election, Great Customer Service Remains a Vital Tool for Economic Recovery

2 minute read
No Matter Who Takes the Helm This Election, Great Customer Service Remains a Vital Tool for Economic Recovery

By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

By the time you read this, we will have a good idea of who the UK electorate has chosen to lead us following this year’s General Election. Regardless of the outcome, there is a need to lean into the challenges and opportunities that will ensure we can return to growth. 

We will see one of the many manifestos presented to us over the past month become a tangible plan, to be actioned and built upon. And there is one thing that absolutely needs to be focused on – addressing the challenging and often volatile economic landscape we have all been dealing with as business leaders over the past few years. 

With services accounting for 80% of UK GDP, it’s clear we are a service nation – and service should be a key focus for our current and future governments. This is why, ahead of the General Election being called, The Institute of Customer Service announced its own manifesto entitled Building a Service Nation. 

In it, we laid out our key asks of the next Government – which remain steadfast following the election. They focus on four vital areas for business and economic improvement: service excellence, professionalisation, protecting our public facing staff, and improving governance.

First, it is vital that organisations can upskill their people across the business to recognise and be able to deliver an excellent service experience and build customer trust. To enable this, we will support Government in reforming the Apprenticeship Levy to allow training for customer service-focused skills and other appropriate skills for specific customer-facing roles to be options for using the Levy. 

Our second ask is based around research we undertook which has shown that companies with higher customer satisfaction achieved 10% higher levels of profitability than those with lower-than-average satisfaction. Despite his clear correlation, no real action has been taken to ensure organisations are investing in their people and services. The time has come to revisit the current corporate governance code and make sure it is appropriately balanced for today’s business requirements and places a strong emphasis on the duty of businesses to look after and address the needs of customers.

Third, abuse towards customer-facing staff is a shocking and serious issue, and one we at the Institute have been raising awareness about through our Service with Respect campaign. Recent government debates on the issue have sought to address this but have generally focused on retail workers. We are calling on government to introduce guidance for the recording of crimes against front-line workers – across every sector, not just retail – as soon as possible. We would also like to see abuse of public facing workers becoming a standalone offence, not just an aggravated one.

And finally, we turn to regulated sectors, where customer satisfaction has fallen far below the levels we should expect – and where we want to see increased focus, measurement, and accountability. We are calling on Government to mandate that organisations in regulated sectors must report on the customer experience and levels of customer satisfaction. And, more importantly, we would like to see the customer experience being benchmarked both within and outside of sector.

Again, this all comes at a crucial moment as a fresh page is turned – an election is always a pivotal time, for the entre nation and particularly for those campaigning and pushing for change. There is a strong opportunity to reset the dial and put service at the heart of a successful strategy for growth. 

As business leaders, we need to shift towards long-term thinking – and in order to do this successfully, we need our government to do the same. This will incentivise boardrooms to truly put service on the agenda, invest in the right skills, training, and technology, and create a true service nation to power a thriving future. 

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