That well worn phrase 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' is mostly sound advice but how do we ensure we have a consensus about what ‘broke’ actually looks like? Does the rhetoric match the reality? 

This was the critical discussion point at the launch of CCA Global Standard v6 at the Irish Institute of Bankers in Dublin recently.  An insightful case study from Global Standard bearer Ulsterbank, shone a bright light on the issue of cultural change at the front line, stressing the need for persistence and an open mind when embarking on customer led transformation.  Many organisations harbour a culture of measuring what is possible rather than what actually matters to consumers. Success for Boards becomes somewhat self-fulfilling when those selected measures yield positive results. 

It takes real bravery to challenge the status quo and open up discussion on all aspects of how customers actually experience your offering.  In the case of Ulsterbank, the exercise involved removing all average handling time constraints and empowering colleagues to simply do what was required to help customers.  Sounds remarkably like common sense?  But unfortunately it's not as common as it should be, surprising really given that the nature of calls left these days is likely to be complex, problematic and perhaps emotional. 

The Ulsterbank results were remarkable in terms of increased customer satisfaction, employee engagement with a robust reduction in absence and attrition rates to boot.  At an individual level, an employee unexpectedly received a bouquet of flowers from a customer for excellent service; using previous performance criteria the same employee had been judged below par regarding call lengths.   

Interestingly the organisational culture is ‘Lean’ and considered highly successful - the new approach didn't disperse with that discipline but recalibrated its importance to achieve a greater customer mind-set.

One of the worst aspects of front line customer service roles can be defending the indefensible or explaining the inexplicable. Savvy organisations seeking change will really drill down to those areas where they are inadvertently doing 'stupid' things to customers when they prioritise organisational processes and departmental silos over people and common sense.   

This is why we are currently working on new research focused on ‘Agent Effort’ in association with Plantronics (click here for website).  Converse to customer effort, this project, seeks to understand how much effort agents need to make to service customers on a daily basis.  We are looking to understand the latest trends for performance measurement, the impact of improved automation/technologies, as well as future skills requirements and more. Participate and share your views on this important topic here. (See here for survey) 

The emergence of talented customer service directors on main boards is to be welcomed, particularly where the organisation is one of legacy rather than a new entrant like Amazon or Apple.   

One of the biggest lessons learned from CCA Global Standard is that great customer service needs to be efficient – consumer opinion repeatedly highlights this in our research.  However the reverse is not always true; efficiency in and of itself does not yield great customer service.  Managing a mixed model, and sometimes complex models, of customer contact operations today requires a questioning mind and a desire to anchor success and build thereon.  This year’s CCA Excellence Award submissions are an indicator of real progress in harnessing new technologies to enable empathetic and efficient services. The future of our sector is indeed one to celebrate - this we will do in style on 26th November - good luck to all those shortlisted! Click here for shortlist.