If you were in any doubt that the economy is improving, confidence is growing and people are on the move again, you only have to look at a surge in the numbers of people seeking passports and the UK Passport Office’s hapless efforts to deal with increased demand. 

An uptick in consumer confidence is prompting more people to travel and the UK Passport Office has received a barrage of complaints about a huge backlog in issuing passports. It has been caught short by having to deal with 300,000 more applications than at the same time a year ago. Read more 

While measures are being introduced to avert a crisis, the episode underlines the extent to which we have all become ‘hard-wired to austerity.’ It also demonstrates that adapting to an altered business environment is not always easy even when you are facing a ‘good’ problem of increased demand. 

You need robust systems, intelligent data and let’s not forget the importance of having really good people to analyse problems and come up with creative solutions.  

At a visit to mobile provider Three in Glasgow this week the message was clear: increased value in the foreseeable future will all come from the people agenda. Phone packages and processes are increasingly similar and easily copied which is why it is the calibre of Three’s people that will make a difference to the company’s proposition in future. The lesson is not restricted to the mobile sector. 

As we strugggled through the recession, we focused on saving not spending, staying lean and holding on to customers for dear life, with perhaps a reduced emphasis on holding on to our own people.  Circumstances dictated that workforces were largely static as people clung to job security in a depressed labour market.  

All of these things influenced the strategies we adopted to run our businesses and deal with people, both customers and staff. Now is a good time to to take fresh stock as the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction: unemployment has dropped to 6.6% and the UK is now one of the fastest-growing western economies.

At CCA, we are uniquely privileged to have an overview of how these issues affect organisations across all sectors and it is clear that a wave of change is underway, with people on the move at all levels in the customer service hierarchy. 

People issues are once again high on the corporate agenda and holding on to, developing and bringing on board the most talented people with the right skills, value sets and personal attributes is a prime concern for many organisations.  

We discussed these issues at a dinner hosted by BSI, debating how standards fit into this altered world view and there was a consensus that the value sets that were instilled during the economic downturn need to be re-examined. The principle focus of standards now is on behaviour and ethics and how these are lived out by staff and the impact this has on customers. 

One thing we are particularly pleased about in our work on CCA Global Standard© Version 6 is our new module on employee engagement and the enthusiastic reception it has received in pilots with large organisations. They share a commitment to ensuring that not only does the organisation wrap around the customer, but also around employees - no mean feat to achieve in practice. 

What they have found really useful is that for the first time Global Standard© twins employee engagement with customer engagement, giving a 360 degree overview at a key point in the economic cycle.  

Having an independent valid up-to-the minute gauge of employee commitment provides invaluable insight which can be used to fine tune ‘people policies’ for a new business environment with new challenges.