Customer Experience Director Charlie Whitworth reflects on the latest Customer Satisfaction Index and how Covid-19 has thrown the human factor into sharp relief.

Most organisations recognise the importance of putting customers at the heart of everything they do. Many of them measure their customers’ experience using metrics such as Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Voice of the Customer (VoC)… the list goes on. Many of the organisations that perform well against these metrics also perform well against their competitors but not all of them do, and I believe that it’s the human factor that makes the difference.

On Wednesday 8 July 2020 I attended a webinar hosted by Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Services (ICS), for the launch of the latest UK Customer Service Index (UKCSI). Her analysis of customer satisfaction in the context of the Covid-19 crisis sheds some useful light on how the pandemic has emphasised the importance of the human factor.

For me, the human factor is embedded in an organisation’s culture. It’s about employees ‘doing the right thing’.

In my view, it has always been key to an organisation’s success. Of course, it’s not a panacea for success - organisations still have to get the products, services, quality and price right - but it is the differentiating factor in a marketplace filled with organisations offering similar products and services.

So, why is it important?

Here at Capita, we’ve noticed that customers have been far more willing to accept lower-quality service during the pandemic. The ICS research reveals that 66% value the role of customer service employees more than they did before the pandemic. They’ve realised that, when they’re buying products and services, the people they’re dealing with are human, just like them, and so they’re more willing to forgive delays and errors.

Indeed, the overall UKCSI has remained largely flat (although only half the survey covered the lockdown period) and many organisations are reporting that their CSAT and NPS scores have remained the same or even increased over the past few months.

But this won’t last. 

As things begin to stabilise and the economy picks up again, customers will resume their high expectations of service. And the organisations that will be successful are those than can continue to make a human connection with them post-pandemic. So how do organisations continue to achieve that human connection?

The UKCSI highlighted that the two most important things that customers wanted organisations to focus on during the pandemic were doing the right thing to protect their employees and prioritising the needs of vulnerable customers. So, for organisations, it’s not just about meeting their customers’ needs, it’s about supporting vulnerable customers, looking after their employees and, I would suggest, looking after society as a whole.

This leads me to another, more subtle element of the human factor. We often talk about vulnerable customers, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with singling out a specific segment. When is one customer vulnerable and another customer not? Isn’t it more of a continuum? I believe that many of those customers wouldn’t describe themselves as vulnerable, they would say they just want to be treated with respect and care. Isn’t that what we all want?

The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted something that we all probably knew subconsciously, which is that making a human connection with your customers is one of the keys to success. And I would describe that human connection as treating each other, our customers, our employees, our wider society with respect and care.

Thinking about your organisation?