It’s National Customer Service Week!

National Customer Service Week is a week long opportunity to raise awareness of customer service, and the vital role it plays in successful business practice and the growth of the UK economy …”

On the one hand, it’s a bit disappointing that we need to have a special week allocated to doing something which surely should come naturally – however, I most definitely recognise that the service industry in the UK needs all the help it can get.

The themes for this year’s National Customer Service Week focus on some of the key elements of customer service e.g. understanding your customer, being easy to do business with, dealing with problems, business impact and (my personal favourite) recognition.  The Institute of Customer Service has some useful resources on the website and it’s definitely worth a look … unless of course, your organisation is already at the pinnacle of excellent service delivery?

The scoring of the bids for Thameslink and Essex Thameside franchises recently awarded, has revealed the separation of financial and quality inputs that the Department for Transport now applies.  Whilst ‘pounds, shilling & pence’ are a finite measure, quality is of course far more subjective and therefore more difficult to measure.  That said, the DfT has stated that the satisfaction ratings recorded in Passenger Focus’ National Rail Passenger Survey will be an important element of future franchise awards, with extensions granted based on evidence of successful service delivery.

I was pleased to see that Passenger Focus has recognised the need to expand the scope of the NRPS – and in August published the results of a new survey based on the measurement of public trust in the UK Train Operating Companies.  Rail travel scores 50% overall, putting us on a par with the airlines and thankfully well ahead of banking (28%) and the energy companies (14%) – however gives us a clear message that there is work to be done.

In his book Customers for Life, Carl Sewell states that ‘Being nice to people is just 20% of providing good customer service.  The important part is designing systems that allow you to do the job right the first time.  All the smiles in the world aren’t going to help you if your product or service is not what the customer wants’.  Or as Michael Hammer puts it ‘a smile on the face of a limousine driver is no substitute for a car’.

This renewed focus on the quality element of the franchise bids provides a great opportunity for the UK Rail Sector to ensure that the systems and processes are in place from the start, developing new initiatives and ways of working to ensure that the 80% ‘strong foundation’ is in place, so that the 20% ‘being nice to people’ has the impact that it deserves.