In July, the Institute of Customer Service published the results of their UK Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), a national survey that gauges the quality of UK customer service annually. This year, the results showed that customer service satisfaction had plateaued. Since 2009, it had been increasing – slowly but surely. Good customer service correlates directly with business performance and growth, and therefore with the performance and growth of the British economy as a whole. So, what should businesses be doing to reverse the trend and get back on the track to success?

Personally, I think that the key to great customer service is innovation. The needs and expectations of consumers are changing; with social media increasing our appetite for immediate communication, we are less likely to tolerate delays and time-wasting when trying to get answers or solve problems. Consumers are also aware of the stiff competition between businesses in the same industry and will take steps to compare them before deciding to buy from one or another.

If you don’t deliver great service as a company, you can be sure that customers will take to Twitter to air their grievances. Likewise, if you go above and beyond to deliver excellent service and support, recommendations by word of mouth will win you more business – it’s a powerful and often overlooked form of PR. This is why it’s more important than ever for firms to really push when it comes to looking after customers. Good is no longer enough. Great is what we should be aiming for, but how do we achieve it?

At UKFast, we have a few ways of introducing innovation to customer service. We have a system within the business, known as the ‘pod system’. Each pod comprises an account manager, two Windows engineers and two Linux engineers. Pods have a dedicated pool of clients specific to them so when a client calls up for support, they are always greeted by the same people. This means that they can build up a rapport with our employees and get to know them, and it saves our clients being passed from pillar to post as happens so often when trying to contact support teams within big companies.

Additionally, we have implemented our own internal system – Orpheus – which includes important elements such as daily task and diary management, a telephone system, accounts software, and customer sales and technical databases. It is a bespoke system, created by our research and development and technical teams, who are encouraged to spend 20% of their time innovating and working on their own projects. The system means that whenever a client calls us, they are automatically directed to the correct pod, with their details appearing on screen – this lets us start working to assist them in the time that would otherwise be wasted searching for their information.

When the customers surveyed for the UKCSI were asked to give three adjectives to described good experiences with organisations, the answers most commonly given were ‘friendly’, ‘helpful’ and ‘easy’. Having a dedicated pod system and efficient way of pulling up customer information helps us to achieve these things.

We also pay a lot of attention to Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is the nationally recognised method of assessing customer satisfaction. When our clients have a support ticket resolved, they are asked to score UKFast by rating how likely they would be to recommend the service to their family or colleagues, based on the experience they have had. They are also prompted to leave feedback. The country’s average NPS score is +7%. UKFast has an average NPS score of +61%. We take it so seriously, that we actually have our NPS score live on our website.

Having pod systems and focusing on NPS helps with team motivation, injecting an element of competition between pods. Every Monday morning, Jonathan Bowers, our M.D., gives a presentation to the entire company and the NPS scores of each pod from the previous week are revealed. We recruit people with very supportive and passionate personality traits, so our employees really pride themselves on making sure their customers are always happy. We actually gauge the performance of employees not by the sales they make but by the amount of time they spend on the phone, taking to customers.

Encouraging innovation and creative thinking within a company is a great way of generating fresh ways to deliver even better customer service. I’d like to see more businesses publishing their NPS scores and really shifting their focus onto the kind of experience they are providing to their customers. Business success is about people, and the sooner we prioritise people, the sooner we will break our national customer service plateau.

Lawrence Jones is CEO of colocation, cloud and dedicated hosting company UKFast, a £20m + turnover firm based in Manchester.

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