Life happens as we are busy making plans. This was certainly true for me last year when an unexpected illness meant taking quite a few months to recuperate. Having rarely been ill in my life - not even Covid - it was quite a shock.

Of course time for reflection allows us to view things through a different lens and to take a broader perspective on everything; life, work and the universe!

One of the most common phrases these days is ‘nothing works anymore’.

Whether it’s trying to secure a medical appointment or as customers getting access to organisations by phone, we seem to have to expend much more effort than before.

For those of us with longer lived experiences there’s so much more to compare when voicing our woes. This is a positive but also a weakness when trying to be the way we were. 

For younger people there is less memory and more acceptance, and this is critical when planning for the next normal. It really feels a dial has shifted swiftly as we adapt to our digital world, whilst many still yearn for more personal offerings. 

Great digital strides were made over the last 3 years through necessity. The number of processes aided by AI, robotics and automation is staggering. However, some of these hastily applied services are in urgent need of review as the extent of customer anxiety and vulnerability hasn’t necessarily been properly catered for. This is proving a current challenge to many organisations as they grapple with significant loss of experienced personnel to manage customer need.

The real challenge is to repurpose services today to meet tomorrow’s demand. That means a lot of hard work in understanding how the vast array of advanced technologies can help do the heavy lifting, freeing up human contact for where it’s needed; now where have we heard this before?

This has been the holy grail for organisations in the CCA customer network over the past 20 years or more, but the changed landscape today means it’s not just desirable but essential.

There are fewer people to provide the roles and services we have become used to over the past few decades. We have a rapidly aging population likely to consume, rather than provide, services. New, younger generations are naturally digital first, with more ability to seek work arounds when things aren’t optimal. 

Our working models are torn apart, reforming in a variety of new ways, some still experimental. There is a new view which seeks to prioritise work-life balance much more so than those who started careers in the 80’s and 90’s. When planning for the future, it’s important not to reminisce too much about the past - we need to extract what serves us well and leave behind the rest.

An older friend was telling her young grandchildren about the energy crisis of the 70’s and how she managed just fine with 3-day weeks with strikes to deal with. Talking about the 70’s to a young person today is the equivalent as someone in 1970 talking about 1918 - think Downton Abbey! We’ve all had conversations with our kids about the days before smartphones and in my case before mobiles at all - they simply can’t conceive of this world. 

The last big disruption to the economy was in 2008. In the years following, industry’s response to customer service was influenced by austerity. Measures included increased offshoring and the acceleration of digital transformation. Whilst there were many success stories, there was also widely publicised disquiet as some customers felt cast adrift from companies whose internal interests sometimes seemed to trump those of customers. 

There’s a real risk today of further disquiet if services aren’t rebuilt with real, rather than perceived need, and by listening intently (actively and passively) to what is required. Over the next few months we’ll be launching a whole series of new research and insight services supporting this agenda. 

There a real passion to learn and adapt quickly from such a lengthy period of disruption, and a huge appetite to get this right in the many organisations who share experience in the CCA customer network. The recently updated and eagerly awaited CCA Global Accreditation framework is now available to help accelerate progress.

Thanks to all who have contributed to this new version. It is a carefully curated synthesis of up-to-date experience from all public and private sectors of the economy. At its heart is the ambition to help organisations move all employees a step closer to customers and to reduce friction and lessen customer effort in a complex world.

We’ll be celebrating the success of those who have attained the accreditation - some more recently and some who have held it consistently for 20 years – at the upcoming VIP Business Lunch being held in Glasgow on 27 April 2023. Click here for more information. 

I hope to see you there!