British public prioritise the needs of others in customer service, finds Institute of Customer Service

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New research has revealed a shift in the value consumers place on customer service as a result of COVID-19; with two thirds (65%) saying they appreciated employees in customer service facing roles more than they did before the pandemic.

The poll by the Institute of Customer Service, revealed a strong demand for organisations to do the right thing by their teams during this time. Protecting employees (65.2%) and prioritising vulnerable customers (63.3%) are seen as the two most important areas businesses should be focusing on, with helping customers in financial difficulty also in the top five (47%). 

Commenting on the figures Jo Causon, CEO at The Institute of Customer Service said: “In the face of enormous uncertainty and restrictions, customer service teams offer the public far more than simple transactions – they are a vital support service and for many brands, the key link with their customers. The importance of customer service has been thrust into the forefront by this crisis. I think the results reflect that brands may have been benefiting from a period of tolerance from customers, but this may diminish as time goes on.’’

“With some form of disruption likely to continue for months to come, potentially followed by a long and slow journey towards economic recovery, businesses will benefit from focusing on their core values and service offering. Those that maintain an authentic connection with customers and demonstrate commitment  to their customer service strategies as we navigate these challenging times will, I am in no doubt, be in a stronger position to survive as we move beyond the crisis.”

Increased communication is seen as critical to customer satisfaction, with over half (55.9%) of those surveyed citing keeping customers updated as much more important than usual during the crisis.  Desire for communication is particularly prevalent amongst the younger generation – with those under 34 placing greater importance than usual on keeping customers updated (50%) and listening to customer feedback (37%).

Food Retail and Services lead the way for customer satisfaction throughout the pandemic, with over 78% of customers saying that companies in these sectors are doing enough to look after their customers. On the lower end were the utilities (64.4%) and insurance (66.3%) sectors, with disappointed customers commenting that they need to improve communication, make it easier to contact organisations, offer more financial flexibility and be more understanding.

Causon continues: “As organisations face the hard economic reality and many fight for survival, they are going to have to balance conflicting factors and make tough decisions. The research demonstrates that customers are increasingly looking to brands for more than simple solutions to an immediate need. They expect brands to show empathy, understand their needs and share their values as they navigate the crisis”