Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ contains perhaps the most famous opening lines in English literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” As we come to the close of the year and begin to reflect on developments in customer contact operations during 2013, his words seem somewhat appropriate.

In terms of things to be proud of, in the last 12 months we have seen examples of contact centre teams displaying extraordinary grace under pressure working in front line roles for organisations dealing with customers’ wrath over energy price rises, IT system outages and other controversial issues.

By their attitudes and actions, by patiently talking customers through difficult issues and actively seeking ways in which they can ameliorate the situation, these front line troops performed an important role in helping to rebuild customer trust, often in trying circumstances.

There were encouraging signs of values-led service strategies emerging in a number of organisations (notably in financial services but also in retail), led from the top by the CEO, with agents being rewarded according to how well they live up to the organisation’s core values.

It was also a year in which several members made strides in adding social media seamlessly into the service mix, blazing a trail for other organisations who remain at the periphery of social media engagement.

However, there were also high profile instances of not just ill-advised, but in some cases totally reprehensible behavior in communicating with customers via social media, proving it is a medium in which many businesses, even (or perhaps particularly) at CEO level, are far from expert.

It was heartening to see fresh thinking on customer effort, with momentum gathering to adopt effort as a key performance metric - a development which should ultimately help to recalibrate - and to an extent - reinvent business systems and processes so that they start and finish with what makes things easy and requires least effort for the customer.

A number of new partnerships formed between outsourcers and in-house contact centre executives, including National Savings & Investments where CCA Director of the Year Jill Waters steered a hugely complex long-term deal to conclusion while ably juggling the demands of ensuring the business continued to meet the highest operational standards.

When it comes to celebrating excellence, many CCA members continued to demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement of their operation through undergoing Global Standard© accreditation and we congratulate everyone who completed that journey.

In terms of negative behaviour, 2013 saw the first company found guilty of making repeated unsolicited marketing calls, stoking a fierce debate on the issue of cold-calling and nuisance calls.

There is, however a positive aspect to this, which is that rooting out the ‘cowboys’ is in the best interests of the vast majority of businesses who play by the rules and only make ‘cold calls’ for legitimate business purposes such as updating customers on new deals or helping to manage repayment schedules.

We need to be aware of new legislative moves in this area in 2014 and ensure the voice of industry is heard in order that any new laws aimed at protecting consumers do not prevent normal business activities.

Being part of the CCA network undoubtedly inspires individuals at every level of seniority to strive to be the best they can be. As we bid goodbye to an eventful year, all of our 2013 CCA Excellence Awards winner can rightfully take a bow as exemplars of stellar customer service who give us all hope that 2014 will deliver even more innovation and excellence in service delivery.

With best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year in 2014.