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Boardrooms are clueless when it comes to customers

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2nd Jul 2015
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Most UK boards, including their chief executives, have no idea what customers want and don’t bother to ask the opinions of experienced frontline staff who do.

According to the latest survey among 650 employees and line managers undertaken by the Institute of Customer Service, only around half believe that senior executives have any understanding of customer needs - or are even interested.

A mere 36% of line managers felt that senior executives “actively listen” to customers in a bid to improve service, while only 44% of workers felt that their ideas on how to do so were taken on board.

Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said: “The insight gained from frontline employees is vital for leaders to understand what they need to do to be personally effective and, also, to develop future leaders within their organisation.”

Staff are also concerned that customer requirements are not taken seriously enough. Only 28% say that board members have responsibility for customer service, while half believe that they “put profits before the delivery of a great customer experience”.

Causon said: “If employees suggest that customer needs are not understood in the boardroom, what must customers be feeling? Unless the UK’s C-suite takes the time to analyse customer preferences, behaviour and levels of satisfaction, they should not be surprised if the bottom line is hit as customers go elsewhere.”

It was also vital that boardrooms had representatives with direct experience of customer service activities, she continued. “If such a role doesn’t exist, they need to develop the skills, insight and vision to ensure that the customer is a constant reference point,” Causon added.

In order to develop the necessary skills and structures, the Institute’s report entitled “Leading By Example” recommended that board members should:

  • Develop suitable language around customer service to reflect business performance, risk and reputational issues.
  • Create reporting mechanisms for customer service metrics so that the organisation can be forward-looking rather than simply report on financial results.
  • Improve their collaborative and listening skills to ensure they are more informed about what customer-facing staff deal with on a daily basis.
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