This has been a hugely stimulating and busy week as senior customer service professionals from across the entire CCA network came together to exchange ideas on delivering transformational change in customer service.

This week’s meetings included a major consultation on Global Standard© Version 6, as well as a meeting of the BPO group and of Industry Council. Although, each group had discrete issues to discuss, all were focused on instilling a culture of continuous improvement and fostering enterprise-wide commitment to high service standards.

What struck me was that at the heart of all these discussions was trust.  It is a small word, heavy with meaning and consequence. It is built slowly but can be lost quickly or as a Dutch saying aptly puts it: ‘Trust comes on foot but leaves on horseback.’

Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey, Dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath is a noted expert on organisational trust and reminded us that regardless of your sector or ownership structure, you take trust issues lightly at your peril.

There was a stark reminder this week of the price organisations pay for losing consumer trust as energy regulator Ofgem ordered a full-scale competition inquiry into the energy market. The move was regarded as an attempt by the regulator to restore trust in an industry that has lost the confidence of its customers.

It may prove an uphill fight – we know that 43% of consumers don’t trust utilities. Think of the daunting task of training and motivating armies of customer service representatives in the utility sector to defend their brands in the face of so much distrust.

The development of Global Standard© Version 6 has a central role to play in building trust. We were delighted to have international input from Plantronics’ Netherlands team (a previous Excellence Award Winner) and also from others including FCA, Indigo Lighthouse, IKEA, Barclays Wealth, RAC, DWP and Macmillan Cancer Support. 

I have spoken before of focusing on the four ‘Ts’: technology, trends, talent and transformation – it is time to add a fifth ‘T’ for ‘trust’ which must be at the heart of every successful customer service operation.

Trust must permeate the entire customer experience whether you have an in-house operation or outsource part or even most of your customer-facing activities.

A focus on trust is evident in organisations committed to Global Standard©, and important too for our BPO group which looks to share best practice standards in outsourcing.

We are focusing hard on a need to strengthen partnerships and relationships both externally and internally. People at all parts of the service delivery chain have to be incentivised to do the right thing which means that reward systems have to be linked directly to keeping customers happy and thereby building trust - a pre-requisite for boosting customer loyalty and advocacy.

One area of continuing concern is whether communicating with customers via social media is more likely to build or destroy trust. The answer is – it depends.

Where an organisation already has the trust of its customers, there is often a more liberal approach to social media. For Macmillan Cancer Care, which has established high levels of trust, it is rare for a complaint to be aired via social media.  Conversely, organisations which have fractured trust are more likely to experience customers venting on social media.

A lack of firm guidelines on social media from regulators has acted as a brake on financial service companies increasing customer engagement via social media. We understand that a White Paper will clarify these issues and we welcome this.

CCA is working with all our partners on new guidelines on the use of social media and these outputs will be fed into CCA Global Standard© Version 6.  We are currently gathering views and I am confident that when this work is complete, Global Standard© Version 6 will emerge as a trusted tool-kit which will set the bar high not just for service delivery but for safeguarding customer trust.