Don't lose sight of the customer this election: put customer service at the heart of UK's economic growth agenda

17 June 2024, 10:36

Don't lose sight of the everyday customer this election: put customer service at the heart of UK's economic growth agenda
Don't lose sight of the everyday customer this election: put customer service at the heart of UK's economic growth agenda. Picture: LBC/Getty
Jo Causon

By Jo Causon

There are few areas of life that impact every member of the electorate like customer service. After all, every single voter is a customer many times a week.

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Customer service is also vital to our economy, with 80% of the UK’s GDP coming from the services sector. Achieving an efficient, respectful and growth-driven Service Nation is therefore a cross-cutting agenda that the next Government should prioritise.

One casualty of the general election is the Criminal Justice Bill, which included an important amendment aimed at better protecting retail workers from abuse, but has been paused by the dissolution of Parliament.

Revitalising the Bill in the next Parliament is one potential route to introduce much-needed safeguards for the many thousands of people working in our nation’s shops.

But we must go further. The next Government should endeavour to protect frontline workers across all sectors, not just retail. Every act of abuse is one too many, which can have a devastating, often hidden, impact on the mental and physical health of our colleagues, friends, and family members. Our data shows that 20% of workers facing hostility took sick leave as a result, and 31% considered quitting their jobs.

This should be a wake-up call.

Beyond the pressing need to protect people in their everyday work, our own Manifesto also details the investment, policies and standards needed to improve business returns, truly getting the economy ‘going gangbusters’ while better serving customers and improving the lives of each and every citizen in the country.

Customer service and business returns are inextricably linked. Our research indicates that businesses scoring one point or more above the sector average for customer satisfaction saw an average EBITDA of 20.3%, in stark contrast to 10.5% for those one point or more below it. In short, those businesses that get the service proposition right are twice as profitable as those who don’t.

Incorporating consistent service metrics into governance reporting would lead organisations to track and publish their commitment to the service proposition. This would encourage companies to adopt a more long-term perspective, showing the effect of better service on business performance.

Beyond the bottom line, customer service is now an essential component of any organisation’s reputation, which is critical for sustainable success. In fact, over a third of customers have stopped using a company because of its reputation, as revealed by our research on corporate governance.

The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index revealed that 31.3% of customers choose excellent service even if it costs more, while 41% would avoid using an organisation again following a poor service experience.

With that, prioritising service within corporate governance will help Boards recognise the strategic importance of service. In turn, businesses will see greater customer trust, retention, and recommendation - which will foster innovation, drive returns, and encourage investment.

At a time when achieving economic growth will likely be the number one priority for the new Government, driving an effective service strategy for the country will be a key contributory factor. It will also make the UK a more attractive place to do business – resulting in more national and international investment. It’s a win-win that will serve every voter, no matter their political persuasion or what part of the UK they hail from. We are all customers, and all deserve to be prioritised in this election and beyond.