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Charlie Whitworth

My local clothes shop is doing 'click-and-collect'. You browse their catalogue on-line, place your order, select the nearest store and you get an email telling you when your order will be available to collect.

You pop to the store, give then your order number and someone hands you the goods. It’s a reasonable service, but as a replacement for the service I used to get in the shop - which included feeling the fabric, see the real colour, asking the store assistant for advice and trying on the garment - it's a facsimile of the original service.

I mention this because on Friday the Institute of Customer Services published their bi-annual survey and there was a particular figure that stood out for me. 14.6% of customers have experienced a problem. This is up 1% on the last survey. It might seem a small change, but I think this will be a growing trend. This doesn't mean organisations are getting worse at their services, I think it means customers are getting more demanding. I think customers are beginning to say "I was willing to accept a different and poorer service last year, but you've had a year to get this sorted, and I want a similar service to the one I used to get face-to-face".

Everyone in the customer services industry has been working hard to improve their services. Organisations have increased the number of services available on-line, they've automated, they’ve introduced AI and they've done all this whilst implementing home working for their advisors, team managers and all other staff. 

But there's a new type of customer that we've never had to deal with before. The customer who preferred face-to-face customer services, who's been forced to go digital. Some of them may have even enjoyed the digital experience for the first couple of times but they're inexperienced on-line and they're missing that real-life contact and the human interaction.

The UKCSI also identified that customers think the most important thing that organisations should improve is 'make it easier to contact the right person to help me'. It was noteworthy that this was even more important for customers with poor or very poor wellbeing.

I think these two factors mean we need to look at the whole customer experience again. Many organisations have done a great job of redesigning their individual journeys (like 'home move', 'view bill' or 'up-grade'  for example) but we need to rise up a level and think about the whole journey and the whole experience. We also need to think about personalising our experiences. Different customers want different experiences. The customer who is new to on-line shopping will want a different experience to the digitally-savvy customer who's been on-line since before the pandemic and the customers with poor wellbeing will want a different experience to the customer with better wellbeing. 

At Capita we have and continue to run transformation programmes with our clients but the way we do those transformations is changing. More and more we're working in partnership with our clients to consider the whole customer experience and we’re now beginning to tailor different experiences for different customers. We might not deliver all of our client’s customer services but increasingly we're working with our clients to consider the customer experience as a whole and design journeys that are integrated, frictionless and personalised.

So as we look forward I think we need to recognise that, yes, customer behaviour has changed, but that customers are increasingly looking for a digital service that replicates (as far as possible) the experience they used to get in those face-to-face interactions. And that means building new and different experiences, rather than trying to push customers through existing digital journeys.

Written by


Charlie Whitworth

CX Design & Delivery Director, Capita

Charlie jointly leads our Customer Experience team within Customer Management. He has been with Capita for five years, during which time he has led digital transformation programmes that focus on the holistic end-to-end customer experience to deliver revenue and cost benefits to our clients. Charlie brings a service design mindset together with operational experience and financial training to ensure solutions are both innovative and deliverable.

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