Martin Lewis' recent posts about widespread poor customer service have caused quite a stir. His particular frustration is that engrained and all too familiar claim, ‘we are experiencing unexpectedly high call volumes’.

Shouldn’t organisations learn to expect these volumes and fix things? Are they in fact a hangover from the pandemic and surely we have moved on? There was of course some riposte - by those arguing that he shouldn’t tar all organisations with the same stick, just because they use the same communication channels.

If we dig beneath the surface however, I think there are some uncomfortable truths. If we frame the issue as a debate, ‘Is customer service in the DNA of the boardroom’ (which was the inaugural research for CCA Industry Council in 2005) then the arguments might be that we are living through a painful transition in our adoption of digital technologies at a time when demand for services is sky high. This, from an anxious population struggling with cost of living crises, not to mention the many uncertainties reported daily by our 24/7 news channels.

In any normal time period all of this would be challenging to say the least, however throw in chaos in the labour market post pandemic, with disrupted work models yet to find equilibrium. Add in dealing with the aftermath of accelerated technology implementation in response to pandemic emergency; then it’s easy to see how standards can slip.

On the other side of the debate we might argue that the sole purpose of any organisation is to sense and respond to its customer base and it follows that these issues can and should be mitigated by being top of any Board agenda?

Managing complex customer service is challenging in today’s fast paced world. No one would argue otherwise. However there is a risk that we become fixated and tunnel visioned by the latest shiny new toy. In this case the advent of generative AI which promises so much, has undoubtedly got incredible power to minimise work loads, but on the other hand must be carefully thought out and painstakingly trialled with the needs of customers and employees foremost in decision making.

This is the topic of CCA’s latest research programme using ‘Real Voices’ from our enthusiastic network of organisations in all sectors who are providing a dual focus as customers and professionals ensuring that we have a full picture of reality.

Almost all of CCA activity is informed by the outputs and learnings from CCA Accredited members. Each adds to the synthesis of what good looks like by their collective dedication to learning, analysing, assessing and reporting.

The good news for all organisations struggling to make sense of what can seem like a juggernaut of a task, is that all of this material is available for those who want to embark on continuous customer service improvement. In particular, the new FCA guidance around consumer duty is focussing Boards on what lies ahead and how to respond in financial services.

I’ve often said that it’s a privilege to be at the helm of an organisation whose client base is self selecting in its passion for improvement and innovation - why else would you want to be part of CCA?

I’m also aware that there are thousands of organisations who are struggling to make sense of how to maximise customer interactions and are tempted to go for the latest quick fix - especially if measurement criteria is short term, as it so often is.

We are excited to launch the first CCA Leaders' Summit of 2024 next week. The programme as ever is packed with experience and insights about optimising resources to improve customer experience. I hope to see you there!

CCA Global Accreditation for Customer Experience© has been used by many organisations (some for over 20 years!) as a rudder in what can be very stormy seas, helping navigate challenging times knowing the best model is in place for your business, colleagues and customers. More information is available on the CCA website.