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Where are your customer service skills? How do you improve them?

What do you do to nurture customer service talent?

This week is Customer Service Week run by the Institute of Customer Service. Today is the second day and the theme is Capability & Skills: Identifying and nurturing customer service skills in your organisation.

Ask your employees how to improve customer service

Have you ever asked employees what would make things better for them and ultimately improve the customer journey? Perhaps they may suggest changes in how you correspond with customers? Or changes to customer service targets that may make a difference? They could be focussing on getting a resolution within a certain time but actually want to focus on getting the right resolution, which is likely in turn to reduce further complaints. Your employees may suggest some training that you hadn’t thought about, such as in psychology or consumer rights or in how to identify and respond to vulnerable customers.

5 people sitting along a table

Customers with celebrity status

Think of a celebrity (dead or alive). Imagine that a member of staff is that celebrity and see if your manner changes and if so how. Try this with your staff as part of a role play exercise. Then have a discussion around what was different to how you normally handle complaints. Why? Should everyone be treated like a celebrity?

Don’t treat everyone like you would be treated

Perhaps you believe that everyone should be treated how you would like to be treated or like your mother should be treated. Although commonly spouted, these adages are poor. I want to be treated with respect, like most people. Yes. However, I also want to be dealt with in writing and swiftly. My mother would be quite happy with you phoning her and chatting about anything and everything. You may like to be dealt with on the phone but swiftly. If you took every area of dealing with complaints, imagine just how many permutations there would be in how you would deal with someone. Take a celebrity… you don’t know how they would like to be dealt with. You have to find out and that’s the key. Train staff to find out these things as if they were talking to someone whom they wanted to think highly of them.

Thank yourself

Ask your staff to write a “Thank you” letter to themselves. They could take a recent real scenario or one that is made up. This could be, for example, a letter that tells them what they would like to hear, such as “Thank you for being empathetic”, “Thank you for listening”, “Thank you for dealing with the matter so effectively and efficiently”, and so on. What was done to make the handling of the complaint so good? There is the aspiration. Give a prize to the first member of staff to get a “Thank you” letter/email…

It is even possible to receive a “Thank you” when the complaint handler has not given the complainant what they want. I have been working with a banking client on improving correspondence with vulnerable customers. In some of the work that we are undertaking we are working with staff to remove standard paragraphs, use more initiative and imagining the effects that the decision could have on the customer. The process is ongoing but within months someone had a letter saying “thank you” for dealing with the matter and treating her as an individual.

How to improve correspondence with vulnerable customers

More articles on Customer Service Week

Know your customer

How to celebrate and recognise your customer service heroes

Bringing customer service to the Boardroom

Build your brand through Trust, Ethics & Sustainability

If you would like to find out more about improving complaint handling see Services.

Latest News

CAB launches super-complaint into penalising loyal customers

Citizen’s Advice Bureau calls for penalising loyal consumers to stop

CAB press release

Citizen’s Advice Bureau has today launched a super-complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It is calling for the regulator to look into how consumers are being penalised for loyalty in 5 key sectors. It requests an outline from the CMA on how the problem can be fixed.

CAB’s press release said:

“Citizens Advice has revealed customers who stay loyal to their providers are losing out on over £4 billion a year.

The practice of overcharging loyal customers is widespread and Citizens Advice has repeatedly warned that loyal consumers are being ripped off.

Research by Citizens Advice found that across 5 essential markets (mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings):

British consumers lose £4.1 billion a year to the loyalty penalty.

8 in 10 people are paying a significantly higher price, in at least one of the markets, for remaining with their existing supplier.

The loyalty penalty is, on average, £877 per year – equal to 3% of the average household’s total annual expenditure.”


Back in May of this year, the ABI (Association of British Insurers) and BIBA (British Insurance Brokers’ Association) launched a set of Guiding Principles and Action Points  The ABI and BIBA has said it wants its insurance industry members to provide all the information about switching in their correspondence to customers.

Graeme Trudgill, Executive Director said “This guidance was a massive step forward in addressing any large discrepancies in premiums between new business and renewal and was put in place after the CA survey was done which informed their report.

In addition the FCA requirement to advise customers that have been with the same provider for several years that other providers are available – their ‘increasing transparency and renewal in general insurance markets’ – launched mid 2017 and may not have been reflected in the research.

“Though some customers may be able to obtain lower premiums it is important to en sure that the cover they have is suitable. Our members, insurance brokers most often do not set premiums and are able to help customers with the ‘shopping around ‘ at renewal. Since the launch of the principles and action points we’ve been highlighting to members the importance of double checking that customers who have been with the same insurer for a while are being offered a fair premium and we will continue to push this message hard with our members.”

The Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has added its support. In a press release it stated:

“The FCA has been concerned about the issue of long-standing customers being charged more for some financial products than new customers for some time. This has informed our earlier work on cash savings and mortgages.

In the FCA’s 2018/2019 Business Plan we announced that we were looking at the pricing practices of general insurance firms. As part of that work we will launch a market study looking at how general insurance firms charge their customers for home and motor insurance. The terms of reference for this market study will be published in a few weeks’ time.”

Update 22/09/20 The FCA sets out proposals to tackle concerns about general insurance pricing

Government stance on loyal consumers

To coincide with the super-complaint The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched a review of Smart data to protect consumers from rip-off tariffs to look at how the use of technology, such as comparison tools and open banking, can support consumers. It will also cover the speeding up of creative and innovative approaches.

Consumer Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:

“Britain has long been a world leader in ensuring that markets work in the interests of consumers, but many loyal customers are still paying more than they need to.

The Smart Data Review will enable the development of new technologies to make it easier to access the best deals, and follows tough action we have taken in the energy market through our price cap which will protect over 11 million households from poor value default tariffs this winter.

It is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, ensuring markets provide consumers with keen prices and quality products and services through cutting-edge innovation.”

The Government has said it “… wants to ensure that all consumers can benefit from these types of innovative new services, not just those who are digitally savvy and regularly look to switch providers.” But if the review is to only look at technology, one wonders how.

The importance of switching energy suppliers and telecom providers on ITV News

In previous research, CAB found that it is the most vulnerable who are hit by these penalties. It’s exploitation of vulnerable consumers plain and simple.

Let’s hope things are moving in the right direction, and fast!

Help and resources in saving money when renewing cover

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

How to save money on your car insurance

Top 20 tips for complaining effectively

If you don’t get satisfaction from customer services write to the CEO. You can find their contact details on the CEO email website. You are unlikely to get a personal response but it will escalate matters.

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For lots of help, advice, consumer laws and template letters for complaining about most issues in most sectors GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!