Could senior directors of the UK's FTSE 100 companies soon be manning phones, reception desks and cash registers to raise the profile of customer service? According to the Institute of Customer Service, they should be.
Paul Cooper, communications director of the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) is phoning senior directors at each company and challenging them to go 'back to the floor' in a front-line customer service role. According to Cooper, too often customer service is seen as being 'somebody else's job', or as a system to be supervised from a senior position. By going right to the top, the ICS hopes to hammer home the message in UK boardrooms that customer service involves all levels of an organisation.
Research repeatedly shows that employees are inspired to make customer service improvements when their working environment encourages recognition, support and leadership by example. Think of the recognition that the vital role of customer service will receive if captains of industry across the board, not just customer service directors, share the front-line customer service experience.
It would also keep directors in tune with what is important to customers. From the customer's point of view, the quality of service is increasingly a determining factor in where they take their business. Companies therefore need to pay 'heart and mind' service, not just lip service to their customers.
ICS believes that the UK's customer service is improving. This is borne out by ICS's growing membership and the growing number of organisations participating in National Customer Service Week. An ever-growing number of people genuinely want to deliver excellent service and be recognised professionally, says Cooper.
The Institute now has more than 300 organisational members, including BA, BT and Siemens, and 6,000 individual members.
Empowerment and motivation
ICS partnered with Aston Business School and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development on the Reward and Recognition Report 2005, and with organisational development company TMI on the National Customer Complaints Survey 2006. Both pieces of research pointed to the need for equipping, empowering, motivating and recognising customer service staff.