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Institute of Customer Service says latest budget lacks service sector focus

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8th Jul 2015
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George Osborne’s first Conservative party-only budget was dominated by welfare cuts and a new living wage, but tucked away in amongst the various new policies was a levy designed to narrow the perceived skills gap in the UK.

In an effort to reward those training young staff and tackle others using apprenticeship funding inappropriately, the Government plans to apply a new apprenticeship levy, with the hope of transforming the level of training young people receive through such schemes.

The Tory party had already previously committed to produce three million apprenticeships by 2020, diversifying the offering by implementing higher-level programmes and recruiting ‘Trailblazer’ companies to administer them.

However, Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) believes the new budget is still failing to acknowledge the importance of customer service skills and the importance of sharpening those skills among young people in the UK, with much of the attention often diverted into other sectors.

“We already know that job creation and apprenticeships are a key priority for this Government, but with 78% of UK GDP generated by the service sector and around 3 in 4 jobs involving direct contact with customers, greater attention must be given to the interpersonal skills that win or lose business,” she said.

“In an economy dominated by relationships, a sustained focus on improving the customer experience is essential to generate revenue for The Treasury and help drive down our debt levels.  If customer satisfaction continues on its current trajectory, consumers will be less inclined to buy so we need support and incentives to encourage the development of core skills at every stage of an employee’s career.”

Causon also stated that more attention needed to be given to service-orientated qualifications in the UK, in a bid to improve customer satisfaction levels across all industries.

“The Government and organisations alike need to be offering incentives for employees to take customer service apprenticeships as they are transferable across organisations, sectors and job roles. The Trailblazers initiative is developing new employer led apprenticeship standards, with the aim of producing a qualification that supports real business needs.  

“It is essential that there are opportunities for staff to develop their customer service skills with nationally recognised qualifications, as this will improve the service element across all sectors.  This should help generate greater respect for customer facing roles which in turn could demand higher salaries, signifying the growing importance of customer service in the employment market and its bearing on the economy.”

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
11th Jul 2015 10:29

Hi Chris

Causon's job, I assume,  is to represent the interests of the Institute of Customer Service and to a lesser degree, those of members of the institute. For that she has a mandate. But she goes too far when she attempts to represent the service sector as a whole. The service sector, which makes up more than 70% of the UK economy, is much more than just customer service.

Service occur every time someone provides resources for the benefit of another. Every time you withdraw money from an ATM, you receive service. Every time you use your phone to call a friend, you receive a service. Every time you shop in a supermarket, you receive service. In fact, you could argue that products are mere vehicles for the services they enable. But that is rather different to the customer service you receive, or possibly don't receive, when you call a company service-line for help with your burning toaster. 

​Causon does nobody a service (pun intended) when she confuses service in general with customer service in particular. She should stick to her mandate.

Graham Hill

@grahamhill

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