Signs of hope
It is good to end a busy week on a hopeful note, with fresh signs of a sincere commitment to rebuilding customer trust in sectors where trust had reached an all-time low and with the successful launch of our new MBA programme.
Ian Peters, Managing Director of Residential Energy for British Gas, made a brave appearance on breakfast television, engaging with disgruntled customers, including one former customer who said she saved £140 by switching to another supplier.
He asked her to come back when she reviewed her next bill but whether we consider utility customers or bank customers, once someone has switched allegiance, it can be very hard to regain their trust and ultimately their custom (particularly if they feel they were not treated properly or fairly in the first place whether that relates to tariffs or service levels).
The point is that customers should not have to complain about or experience poor service before they feel valued by organisations. There are signs that organisations are beginning to take this on board and to value and safeguard trust more, that is a step in the right direction.
In banking too, it is evident that senior bankers have a new resolve to win back the trust and esteem in which the profession was once held by the public. Sir Richard Lambert provided an inspiring vision to which the industry must aspire in an address to a packed Chartered Bankers dinner. He depicted a banking industry in five years time which is trusted and respected by consumers, employees and businesses alike - he even raised the prospect that in that environment consumers may have come to accept that banking is not free.
An integral part of that vision is increased professional standards across all levels and leaders who not only talk ethics but visibly demonstrate ethical standards in their everyday behaviour. This kind of ethical leadership is something to which not just bankers but all sectors must aspire and it is certainly on the agenda in the organisations which are part of the CCA network.
This week we brought together Customer Experience and Operations Directors from across the public sector and almost all facets of the private sector for the launch of CCA’s new MBA programme. They convened to learn more about the important role they play as catalysts in nudging their organisations towards customer-centricity - no mean feat for legacy organisations with a history of siloed operations designed to serve departments rather than customers.
There is a danger that customer experience as a discipline risks being too 'woolly' a topic to grasp and turn into strategic positive actions. Nicola Collister warned against the dangers of focusing only on the functional aspect of customer experience and ignoring the emotional aspects which are also important.
I see encouraging glimpses of enlightenment on these critical issues but there is still a long way to go until organisations can demonstrate that they have truly designed their processes around the customer rather than themselves.
A question is often asked: ‘What would you do if you woke up to find out that Amazon had entered your market?’ The answers may vary but it is a sure bet that it would galvanise action and the introduction of an enhanced service model.
Henry Ford famously told customers they could have a car in any colour as long as it was black, a pronouncement which stands as an example of the total opposite of customer-centricity. CCA special advisor Dr Carsten Sorensen urges organisations to wake up to a new world and make the important transition from ‘Fordism’ to ‘Amazonism’ (the latter referring to Amazon’s celebrated innovative customer service model). He called for better customer engagement so that organisations begin to sense, anticipate and respond to current and future needs.
In the new world of customer service there are no hiding places and organisations need to harness the twin forces of transparency and trust in order to emerge as winners.