Everyone in the organisation is either directly or indirectly involved with customer service. It is very important that world class, professional, high standard customer service is provided in order to develop, maintain and grow customer relationships to achieve strategic objectives and provide a platform for organisational sustainability and potential expansion.
This guide highlights the risks involved in offering good customer service to help you to plan and conduct your review effectively.
Organisations often use a variety of terms when referring to the service they provide to customers:
The Institute of Customer Service provides the following useful definitions:
'Customer service is the sum total of what an organisation does to meet customer expectations and produce customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction is the feeling that a customer gets, when he or she is happy with the customer service that has been provided.
Customer experience is what a customer feels, and remembers, about the customer service that he or she has received.
Customer expectations are what people think should happen, and how they think they should be treated, when asking for, or receiving customer service.'
For customer service to be good, it must result in a customer who remembered feeling satisfied with the service provided.
Good customer service is about giving the customer what they want, promptly, politely, professionally and right first time. It is about delivering a high quality, product or service in a friendly, approachable and efficient manner.
In order to do this of course the organisation must first understand what the customer expects of them. It is therefore important that there is adequate customer engagement and consultation. Where things do go wrong the organisation needs to understand why.
This can also be done through conducting root cause analysis of customer complaints and incidents.
All organisations have customers, internal and external. Without them the organisation would not exist. For the private sector, customers provide much needed income that enables profit and sustainability.
Income is also a driver for the public sector but this is likely to be secondary to the regulatory requirements and reputational considerations integral with the provision of services such education, housing, health care etc.
Poor customer service can have disastrous effects upon the organisation's reputation, which may threaten its existence. Whilst excellent customer service will create a competitive advantage that will enhance the organisation's standing, providing a platform for growth and development.
Good customer service can also reduce costs, maximise income and potential expanison of organisations. It minimises the time needed for handling customer complaints and re-work. This is likely to result in increased customer satisfaction leading to enhanced reputation, increased demand of services and products, repeat custom, customer recommendations and ultimately increased revenue.
The Institute of Customer Service produced a report in July 2014, UKCSI Customer Satisfaction Index: The State of Customer Satisfaction in the UK. The main findings from this were:
A further report on Customer Services in the UK: Key trends for 2015 the Institute identified eight key trends in customer services for the year ahead as follows:
Apart from the business benefits of providing good customer service there are also regulations such as 'Treating Customers Fairly' (TCF) which all firms regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FCA) have to support.
The six consumer outcomes explain what the Financial Conduct Authority want TCF to achieve for consumers.
Outcome 1: Consumers can be confident that they are dealing with firms where the fair treatment of customers is central to the corporate culture.
Outcome 2: Products and services marketed and sold in the retail market are designed to meet the needs of identified consumer groups and are targeted accordingly.
Outcome 3: Consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale.
Outcome 4: Where consumers receive advice, the advice is suitable and takes account of their circumstances.
Outcome 5: Consumers are provided with products that perform as firms have led them to expect, and the associated service is of an acceptable standard and as they have been led to expect.
Outcome 6: Consumers do not face unreasonable post-sale barriers imposed by firms to change product, switch provider, submit a claim or make a complaint.
From a public service perspective there are scrutiny and accountability mechanisms in place, for example, the Public Accounts Committee, in addition to public sector organisations implementing good governance principles in terms of oversight boards and committees.
Surveys, trends and regulations tell us that the profile and expectations around good customer continue to rise. Organisation must maintain existing standards and develop a culture of continuous improvement with the customer satisfaction at the forefront of everyday activities.
It should be engrained in business as usual not an additional extra at the end of a project. Internal audit can support a customer focused culture by providing assurance that policies and procedures are not only working but also that people live the values and demonstrate expected behaviour.
Everyone in the organisation is either directly or indirectly involved with customer service. People either help customers directly or provide support functions to colleagues (internal customers) who do interact with customers.
Today's customers have an unprecedented number of ways with which to interact with an organisation, including the social media – facebook, LinkedIn, internet, Twitter, telephone, email, text messages, television, letter, and face to face.
Customers can make a complaint in writing, or return goods in person. Whatever form the interaction takes, people expect good customer service. It is therefore important that all customer journeys are mapped with expected service levels defined and agreed. Complaints procedures should be documented with roles, responsibilities and key performance indicators clearly defined and assigned.
Complaints procedures should be properly embedded throughout the organisation/businesses. Complaints systems and processes should be linked to incident systems and an integral part of an organisations risk management processes. Customers should be well aware of how to make a complaint, raise a concern or provide feedback.
There are a variety of actions that an organisation can develop and implement to ensure that there is adequate focus on delivering high quality, excellent customer service across all customer journeys. A two part article by Forbes.com highlights Eight Steps to Superior Customer Experiences:
There are two essentials you need in your knowledge foundation:
Empower your customers to self-serve at their convenience, through their communication channel of choice.
Treat and empower your employees like you do your customers. Give them access to the right knowledge at their fingertips.
Provide your customers with interaction options across many channels and use your common knowledge foundation to provide consistency and efficiency.
Learn what your customers are thinking and act on it.
Your customers shouldn't be able to notice handoffs between departments.
Communicate with your customers with personal and relevant interactions.
Evaluate, baseline, identify… and adapt to your customers.
1. Customer requirements are not factored into the design of customer service propositions.
2. A lack of awareness within the organisation as to how well it serves the customer.
3. Lack of senior management commitment to customer service.
4. Failure to meet customer promises.
5. Failure to manage customer expectations.
6. Unclear or overcomplicated customer standards and procedures.
7. Organisation's systems have inadequate functionality to serve customers.
8. Failure to capture customer feedback and resolve customer issues and complaints when things go wrong.
9. Fraud within customer services e.g. abuse of loyalty programmes such as applying promotional credits to friends and family not entitled to them.
We said earlier that excellent customer service is essential to the organisation no matter what sector the organisation operates in and that one way or another everyone has a part to play in customer service.
This means that customer service is a prime candidate for the annual internal audit plan.
As ever, the decision to allocate time to the various activities and procedures associated with customer services depends on the criticality of customer service risks compared to other strategic risks.
As with all internal audit plans it is important to coordinate work with other assurance providers and avoid duplication of effort where reliance can be placed on their work.
Internal audit can provide assurance over the controls operating within the organisation that impact upon customer service and the organisational exposure to risk through conducting engagements. This can be done in number of way ways:
When deciding upon which approach or mix of approaches to adopt a number of factors should be considered.
Are specific organisation wide customer service functions in place to measure customer satisfaction and handle customer complaints?
When conducting such audits key elements of customer service such as complaint handling and customer measurement should be included within the scope.
When conducting any audit regardless of topic there should be some consideration of what impact any key risks materialising may have upon the customer. For example when conducting an audit of human resources you may consider the impact upon the customer of a breakdown in industrial relations with employees.
Set out below are a number of key areas of customer service where internal audit can provide assurance together with examples of questions and ideas.
The Institute of Customer Service is the independent, professional membership body for customer service. The ICS offer research, publications and a number of case studies that are available to the general public.
The Financial Conduct Authority regulate the financial services industry in the UK. Their aim is to protect consumers, ensure the industry remains stable and promote healthy competition between financial services providers.
The UK Government wants services for all that are efficient, effective, excellent, equitable and empowering and the Cabinet office have set up a service excellence website that includes standards, case studies and other resources
ICMI provides resources, training and consultancy for the development of contact centres.Download PDF