Headlines: July 21st, 2005

Local councils are leading the way in making Britain best in Europe at keeping customers happy, according to the independent Institute of Customer Service. It says local authorities and private sector companies are eroding the myth that organisations in the United States and Europe are more efficient and attentive.ICS communications director Paul Cooper says notable strides have been made in customer service in the UK, with local authorities especially showing “great changes in attitude.” The Institute has 80 local councils among its public sector members.

ICS has launched a UK-wide campaign in the build up to National Customer Service Week, in October. The event aims to boost standards across public, private and voluntary sectors. Events between October 3rd and 9th will include the launch of the annual ICS/TMI Complaints Culture Survey, the fifth to be carried out by research consultancy TMI. It will ask councils, companies and their staff what they feel they should be giving the public and question the public about what they should be receiving. The week will also see the publication of findings from a study into the link between staff reward and recognition and organisational performance as well as new research on technology and customer service.

Paul Cooper said Britain as a whole could be proud of the progress it was making. “People are starting to see the much-vaunted US customer service as a myth, often driven more by tipping than a genuine service ethic,” he said.

“What is heartening is that people are joining the ICS because they genuinely want to do their best and be recognised as professionals. Every day our local authority members complete millions of successful customer transactions,” he added.

Mr. Cooper is warning, though, that although standards have been raised across the board, there is a widening gulf between the very good and the very bad. He said there were a number of organizations that were arrogant and conceited in their unwillingness to change when dissatisfaction with them was quite plain.

Thousands of organisations are likely to take part in Customer Service Week with a number of local authority chief executives acting as ‘mystery shoppers’, testing quality by anonymously phoning their call centres and offices.