By Institute of Customer Service
Smart organisations will focus on rebuilding trust this year after taking a series of high profile hits to their reputation and a plateau in customer satisfaction occurred during 2013. A review of trends in customer service and predictions for 2014 from the Institute of Customer Service predicts that customer service will become a more influential driver of growth in a recovering economy. New technology will prevail as big data and social media promise to revolutionise and encourage a new and more focused business approach to customer service in 2014. At the same time, trust will grow in importance, placing more emphasis on employees’ customer service skills.
2013 – A year in customer service
· Customer satisfaction plateaus – a concern in a competitive environment
· Growing evidence of the link between customer satisfaction and business performance
· Trust in the spotlight after horsemeat, PPI, utilities price rises and NHS scandals
· Social media boosts the power of the consumer as never before
· Technology most effective when improving ease of doing business, such as click and collect
2014 – Seven trends for the year ahead
· Customer service will be a key growth driver in a recovering economy
· Big data will power greater customer insight and innovation
· Online communities for customer service will become mainstream
· There will be a renewed focus on customer service in the public sector
· Measuring customer service will have more impact on the bottom line
· Customers will drive organisational change
· Demand will increase for customer service skills in the workforce
For both public and private organisations, 2013 brought a combination of improving trading conditions, revelations about poor business practises and a shift of power towards the consumer as technology provided new and more effective tools for customers to have their say.
During January 2012 to July 2013 the continuous rise in customer satisfaction recorded since 2008 began to plateau for the first time, dipping slightly in July 2013. This posed the question of whether companies have protected their profits during the tough recession years by cutting back on customer service. More organisations in the survey (38%) recorded satisfaction levels falling by more than one point compared to those that recorded satisfaction levels rising by the same amount (26%).
The link between customer satisfaction and business performance was further strengthened by the same research with those performing best on the UKCSI also achieving more market share than the worst performers.
Politicians acknowledged the importance of customer service, conducting two enquiries into complaint handling with many calling for the establishment of a consumer affairs minister and labour promising a US-style consumer Czar. At the same time social media gave more power to the consumer than ever before – allowing organisations to engage more easily with customers and providing a more effective channel for recommendation.
Trends to watch in 2014
In 2014 customer service will be key to growth as the economy recovers. Companies that understand the importance of customer service as a strategic business tool will gain market share at the expense of those that don’t.
Technology will continue to transform customer service; the use of big data will provide even deeper knowledge of the customer, paving the way for further innovation but also raising concerns about privacy and the use of analytics. Measuring customer satisfaction in more accurate and sophisticated ways is expected to reveal in more detail how customer service impacts business performance.
Online communities with helpful and knowledgeable members operating alongside employees will provide more help, but also force organisations to relinquish some control over their relationship with customers. Customers will also have more control over organisational change, with social media driving increased responsiveness and personalisation, encouraging organisations to empower frontline staff to make decisions and solve customer issues.
This will also impact the demand for customer focused skills, soft skills and emotional intelligence, qualities that have often been overlooked as well as the need for strong commercial acumen. From the shop floor to the highest levels these skills will be at a premium with more customer service representation on boards and leadership teams and a higher proportion of CEOs with customer-centric experience.
About the Institute of Customer Service
The Institute of Customer Service is the professional body for customer service delivering tangible benefit to organisations and individuals so that our customers can improve their customers’ experience and their own business performance.
The Institute is a membership body with a community of over 400 organisational members – from the private, public and third sectors – and over 5,000 individual memberships.
For more information about the Institute of Customer Service go to: www.instituteofcustomerservice.com
About the UKCSI
UKCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index) is the national measure of customer satisfaction. It is based on an online survey of consumers, geographically and demographically representative of the UK population.
The UKCSI began in January 2008 and is published twice a year, normally January and July.
The Index covers 13 sectors – 11 in the private sector as well as local and national public services. Sector reports giving a detailed breakdown of scores by sector and organisation are available.
Customers are asked to rate organisations on customer priorities that they have identified as important. Priorities are grouped in terms of professionalism; quality and efficiency; ease of doing business; problem solving and timeliness. Each priority is given a weighted score. The weighted satisfaction scores are used to produce the index.
Customers score their responses for each measure on a 1-to-10 scale. Overall scores for each sector are mean averages of all responses. The overall UKCSI score for each organisation is the average of all of its customers’ satisfaction scores, weighted for each question grouping.
The July 2013 UKCSI includes 30,683 unique responses. At least 9,890 customers have been surveyed. Customers are geographically and demographically representative of the UK population and participate in the survey through an online panel. Customers are asked to provide a score for organisations based on their most recent transaction.
181 individual organisations received a UKCSI rating. Only organisations that exceed a minimum sample size are scored in the 13 sector reports. In addition, scores are given for 15 generic providers including “your local NHS / Hospital”, “your local Council”, “your local restaurant” etc.
For more information about the UKCSI go to: www.ukcsi