Why customer service scores are falling behind consumers’ expectations

26th January 2022

This article was first published in Insurance Post.

Chris Mcilduff, Chief Customer Officer mulls what insurers need to do to keep up with changing customer expectations as the level of customers experiencing service issues with organisations increases.

Customers are the core of every business and should always be a top priority. Yet across markets, the Institute of Customer Service has witnessed stagnation in organisations’ customer service scores. The results from its latest UK Customer Service Satisfaction Index revealed the number of customers experiencing service issues with organisations has risen to its highest level since 2009.

The quality of service that organisations are delivering for their customers is not improving for a number of reasons, from poorly developed technology, which often makes processes too complex and time-consuming for customers and colleagues, to staff lacking empowerment from senior leaders to manage customer issues, and customers feeling that organisations lack the consistency of service. These factors lead to a fairly dire outlook for customer experience regardless of the industry sector.

Customer expectations are now higher than they were prior to COVID-19 and much of this is due to customers expecting Amazon-type experiences from every service experience. As we continue to recover from the seismic impact of the pandemic, if businesses are able to deliver the right outcomes for customers and colleagues, it will translate into added value for the organisation and help them keep pace with an increasingly competitive market.

With this in mind, there are three approaches that organisations need to adopt to improve their customer service experience.

First, employee engagement has emerged as a top driver of better customer service. We all know the impact COVID-19 had on working patterns across the whole economy, and many of the businesses are now grappling with the challenge of attracting, developing and retaining staff as a result.

However, this can be mitigated if employers incorporate a strategic approach to growing and keeping their workforce, such as offering more clearly defined career paths, specialised training, job security and longevity of roles to boost employee satisfaction.

In turn, satisfied employees are more likely to deliver a superior customer experience and create satisfied customers that will be more valuable to the business in the long term. This ‘mutual gains’ view of motivation and people management lies at the heart of employee engagement.

Five actions

There are five simple actions that companies need to implement to build effective employee engagement:

• Bringing vision and values to life: when a brand has a clear sense of what it stands for and what its values are, so do all of its employees.

• Equip managers and senior leaders with the skills to engage effectively with employees: authentic, regular, relevant communications with employees will ensure that staff understand what is expected of them. This also includes incorporating a level of accountability for customer failures and ensuring managers are communicating this to their teams, such as outlining the implications of this in monetary and non-monetary terms.

• Giving employees clear opportunities to voice opinions: understanding how employees feel about your business will help to shape the extent to which they are engaged with the company.

• Ensuring every employee has appropriate training and a personal development plan: organisations with above-average investment in training enjoy better retention rates and almost twice the levels of employee, and thus, customer satisfaction.

• Recognising excellent customer service performance: recognising a job well done is the simplest, most effective way to reinforce positive behaviours and strong working culture.

Second, technology and customer service go hand in hand, but technology rarely works for both customers and colleagues in tandem. Instead, tech solutions are often driven by company goals as opposed to customers’ and colleagues’ needs. This can be compounded by organisational silos and conflicting business priorities, with the ultimate result that time and resources are spent on creating experiences that do not provide the effortless and slick service customers and colleagues are looking for.

For example, digital journeys often prioritise sales, with customers subjected to a poor servicing or claims experience in terms of how and when they can make changes and the number of steps to do this. In the insurance sector, for example, there is a real lack of clarity in most companies around who owns the customer/colleague experience and this often leads to an inconsistent experience for customers and colleagues. By understanding where this ownership lies and identifying a clear route to effective product and journey development, organisations can avoid a fragmented and underwhelming experience.

Finally, organisations must ensure they get the investment from the board to make sure customer service is seen as a high priority. An organisation must articulate both customer and colleague investments in terms that board members understand, such as profits, balance sheet and reducing risks. This will help ensure the value of an investment for the business is clear and fully supported.

For more information, please contact Chris Mcilduff, Chief Customer Officer via Chris.McIlduff@davies-group.com

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