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Customer Service Excellence: A standard worth meeting?

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11th Aug 2008
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The Government's new Customer Service Excellence standard has been launched, enabling organisations to demonstrate that they have certified competence in the likes of quality of service, customer insight and operational values. Stephen Burrows explains why all customer-focused businesses should consider its merits.

A standard worth meeting?

By Stephen Burrows, Centre for Assessment

Introduced by Central Government in March 2008, the new Customer Service Excellence (CSE) quality standard is available to organisations in both the public and private sector, and provides official recognition that an organisation has the highest standards of customer service embedded throughout its culture.

Replacing Charter Mark (which remains in existence until June 2011), the new quality standard operates on three levels:
 

  • As a driver for continuous development.
     
  • As a skills development tool.
     
  • As an independent validation of achievement.

What is involved?

An organisation working towards achieving CSE will first be required to assess its existing customer service capabilities to see where improvements can be made. Following this, individuals and teams work together to explore and then acquire new customer service skills. By involving the whole team or organisation, it means people can build their own capacity for delivering improved services.

Finally, an organisation will seek formal accreditation to the CSE standard to demonstrate its competence, identify key areas for improvement and celebrate its success. Depending on existing customer service processes in place, this could be a relatively short process, but will take longer in other cases.

Organisations are not on their own; they will be guided and advised throughout the process by a consultancy firm. The experience is designed to have a real positive outcome on a service with tangible benefits at the end.

All organisations that succeed in gaining the standard must work towards, then meet, the following criteria:
 

  • Customer insight – the importance of developing an in-depth understanding of customers.
     
  • The culture of the organisation – how those who work within the organisation demonstrate the necessary values and understanding, as well as how the operations and procedures meet customer needs and expectations.
     
  • Information and access – ensuring that customers consistently receive accurate and detailed information.
     
  • Delivery of an organisation’s main business aims.
     
  • Timeliness and quality of service – a more detailed look at the standards organisations have in relation to how they carry out their main business.

How can Customer Service Excellence help CRM?

The standard has been designed to test, in detail, the areas that research highlighted were a priority for customers, with particular focus on delivery, timeliness, information, professionalism and staff attitude. It encourages and rewards organisations that deliver services based on a genuine understanding of the needs of their customers and communities.

Of course, all of this can only serve to give organisations a greater understanding of their customers and help ensure that culture, service delivery and staff attitudes are aligned effectively.

The knock-on benefits are not only improved customer service but also improved staff morale and motivation. It’s always good for employees to know that they are carrying out their role to the very best standards and that their role has played an important part in their organisation achieving the CSE standard.

The UK sets the benchmark for many customer service values and as an industry, certification bodies have welcomed the introduction of this new Government initiative. It will enable an organisation to enhance its customer service standards and separate reputable and professional companies from those who just pay lip service to customers’ needs.

In addition, it acts as a management tool which businesses can use, and as the standard must be renewed each year it ensures that customer service issues are always front of mind. Holding the CSE ‘badge’ demonstrates a company’s commitment to customer service and can also be included in tender documents or pre-quals to demonstrate this.

For an organisation to be recognised for the CSE standard they must be successfully assessed against its criteria by one of the Government’s licensed certification bodies. Centre for Assessment is the first certification body in the UK to be recommended by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) to certify organisations against the new standard.

In summary

In the current business climate the customer service function has a real opportunity to come to the fore and offer organisations an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. The Government’s introduction of the new Customer Service Excellence quality standard has, therefore, never been so timely.

For more information about the new Customer Service Excellence standard visit: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Stephen Burrows is managing director of Centre for Assessment.

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