Customer service is the true barometer of a healthy business

Great customer service is good for business and is an important indicator of economic health performance in the UK.

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Around 75 per cent of GDP is generated from the service sector and if UK businesses can deliver good customer service, it not only increases the country’s global economic competitiveness, it also improves the financial position of UK companies.

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), a national measure of customer satisfaction, shows that, on average, companies with higher satisfaction have posted better financial results. The index rates customer satisfaction of firms in 13 sectors across the economy and is measured every six months.

healthy businesa2Companies with a UKCSI higher than the average for the sector have seen an average year-on-year sales growth of 9 per cent compared with 3 per cent for those with a score below the sector average. The results also found that firms with a higher than sector-average UKCSI achieved better market share growth.

Jo Causon (inset), chief executive of not-for-profit professional membership body the Institute of Customer Service, says: “There is a close alignment between the financial performance of an organisation and its customer service. Organisations that can align their customer service strategies across the whole of the value change and not just one aspect of it are the ones that are going to win out in the longer term.

“It is about the decisions made in the boardroom. Focusing your customer service strategy across the whole of the organisation, how it relates to other parts of the organisation such as finance and marketing.” The last UKSCI, released in July 2013, showed retail non-food and retail food were the top-performing sectors. They had scores of 84.4 and 81.6 respectively.

Organisations are thinking about their relationships with customers, Causon says, and want to come across as “much more authentic and much more inclusive, responsible and consistent. There is a drive by organisations to be much more open and transparent.”

But not all companies had high scores on the UKCSI, and the July survey showed UK customer satisfaction had plateaued in the last year. The July 2013 UKCSI registered a slight fall from 78.2 in January 2013, to 77.9, while the July 2012 UKCSI score was 78. The utilities sector was the bottom-ranked sector, with a score of 71, the lowest since 2010.

Causon says: “Many organisations do not really understand what customer service is. It pervades all aspects of our economy.”

She advises companies “to understand your customer by getting to the heart of what is driving them and to think very heavily about the skills required by people not just operating the contact centres, but across the whole organisation.

“It is about having emotional intelligence skills, better dialogue communication, empathy and connecting with the customers combined with commercial acumen and understanding how we can use technology.

“As customer’s expectations have increased, we are looking for a customer contact centre which has a multi-channel strategy, which is about choice. If you think about it, we use multi-forms of communication at any one given day. To be able to choose how I contact and how I interact is increasingly important.”

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  • Dave Paulding

    The UKSI results demonstrate just how critical good customer relations are to the financial success of companies. Businesses have to communicate with the
    customer in a way that is most appropriate, and the best solution is to have contact centres that can respond to customer queries over a variety of channels, whether that is email, social media, video chat or by telephone.

    A customer service study conducted on behalf of Interactive Intelligence earlier this year revealed that the live agent still remains the preferred interaction type,
    followed by email and then there was a significant drop to web chat. Telephony will continue to be the main form of customer contact for the foreseeable future, however, in our experience, the reason people speak to agents is because they can quickly and accurately handle multiple and complex tasks, which is not yet possible to achieve through self-service.

    In the current climate companies may struggle to survive if its communications
    strategy is solely based on the telephone and traditional PBX equipment. Businesses have to evolve their customer contact strategy to the next phase of interaction, with IP telephony solutions that support voice over IP (VoIP), open standards like SIP, mobile workers and the unified voice and data communications that customer service standards demand.

    Their solutions will allow contact centres to take a highly personalised, all-in-one
    approach to customer care. Companies can no longer afford to delay making these necessary technology changes, customers expect nothing less than service excellence and, as the UKSI results show, their financial performance now depends on it.

    Dave Paulding, Regional Sales Director UK, Middle East & Africa, Interactive
    Intelligence

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