Why customer service matters in the public sector
Jo Marshall, Executive Director at YPO explores the value of the customer experience
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In an environment dominated by economic and political uncertainty, the risk of failing to deliver the sort of experience customers expect has intensified. This comes at a time when customer expectations for flawless customer service and immediate gratification have never been higher, thanks to the speed and ease of mobile technology. Add this to the rate at which a disgruntled customer can share a complaint publicly over social media and it would seem the perfect storm is brewing.
It is certainly true to say that service leadership has never been more demanding, or more essential, in building a sustainable service culture for high performance. Leadership now requires a broader range of skills and heightened competencies in insight, innovation, communication and engagement.
This is especially vital in the public sector, one of the biggest service providers in the UK, employing 5.36 million people in 2018, or around 16.5% of the working population. Seventy per cent of the UK’s workforce are in customer-facing roles.
At YPO we’ve made it our mission to ensure that excellent customer service is at the heart of what we do. We are committed to customer service excellence and are one of only a handful of public bodies to be a member of the Institute for Customer Service (ICS). Indeed, our results for the 2019 UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) Business Benchmarking Survey are testimony to the way in which the business has adopted a customer-centric approach to business strategy. YPO has scored 87.8 out of 100 against the UK average of 77.7 in its UKCSI business benchmarking results.
The UKCSI survey shows the factors that matter most to UK customers, and YPO is leading the way in the public sector as it continues to action these valuable insights whilst also assessing its performance in those areas.
Excellence in procurement
Although product and price are important, we need to change perceptions about procurement and the value it can bring to the organisation. One way is to help suppliers and stakeholders in the business really think about the business needs.
While public sector budgets are becoming tighter year on year, customers are increasingly looking for added value from the companies and organisations that serve them.
In the latest UKCSI we also saw fresh research into customer priorities – the aspects of customer experience that are most important to customers.
The results show that employees’ friendliness, helpfulness and competence, as well as speed of service, have become even more important. Ease of doing business and dealing with problems effectively have also increased in importance. Moreover, these are the aspects of customer service that differentiate the highest performing organisations from the rest.
Customer expectations are intensifying, and customers have an increasing amount of power. Social media, and the demand to engage more frequently across multiple channels, is challenging organisations to consider their customer service strategy.
We also see that even in a multi-channel world most customers still have channel preferences interacting with organisations through one main route, usually in person, over the phone or through a website – reinforcing the importance of getting the basics right whilst offering seamless, integrated experiences.
Good customer service is rewarded with loyalty and greater confidence. But how can organisations integrate customer service within the culture of their organisation?
There are many leaders who adopt a customer-centric approach to business strategy, but the next step is for all Boards to have representatives who either have direct experience of customer service roles or the ability to develop the skills, insight and vision to ensure that the customer is a constant reference point. YPO has adopted this approach and is committed to providing customers with the best possible service via a relentless focus.
This includes developing on-line and digital responses, improving competencies through training and upskilling, implementing effective listening, and creating a culture of continuous improvement. All are revealed to be central to improved customer service. Focusing on customers and pushing for improvements really does make a difference.
It is the responsibility of the public sector to ensure that it is constantly improving and surpassing expectations. Good customer service is expected, but great customer service is what we should be striving for in the public sector, particularly in the current climate of decreasing budgets and increasing workloads.