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An expected slowdown should not be taken lightly

14th Dec 2016
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Recent CBI statistics show a decline in business optimism within the service sector – with a slowdown expected by many despite robust growth since the referendum vote. Rising costs and slower consumer spending are the main source of this dent in confidence, and this is expected to impact on the business and professional services.

The services sector accounts for more than three quarters of the economy, and has been a key player in maintaining economic growth over the past couple of years. This means that an expected slowdown should not be taken lightly: the accounting sector needs to take preventative measures now – but how?

Interestingly, consumer services such as hotels, bars and restaurants have seen modest growth which is expected to accelerate over the next three months, with ‘encouraging’ signs of investment in training. The business services sector could learn from this strategy – I would certainly recommend placing employee training at the top of the agenda.

Our UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) demonstrates an inextricable link between customer service and repeat custom across the whole service sector. The relationship between the highest levels of customer satisfaction and trust has strengthened in the past year, with 96% of customers who rate an organisation nine or 10 out of 10 for customer satisfaction also citing the highest levels of trust. Trust leads to repeat custom, and also to the recommendations vital to expanding a customer base. Put another way, the return on investment from good customer service genuinely impacts on the bottom-line.

With this in mind, during uncertain economic times, businesses in the accounting industry need to  invest in their customer service strategy in order to build sustainable business, keeping customers with them, and ensure the service sector continues as a key pillar in maintaining the economy. Of course, any cogent strategy needs to have a core focus, and I am often asked what businesses should place at the centre for maximum return.

Our data shows a clear correlation between organisations who ‘get it right first time’ when interacting with customers, and their overall customer satisfaction score. On average the score is over 80 for those organisations where customers said they had issues resolved immediately, but when this did not happen, the score drops to below 60. 

This means, in order to increase customer satisfaction, companies need to focus on getting it right first time – it has to be a prerequisite. Customers expect to be dealt with quickly and competently – as soon as they start to feel let down or ignored, their trust is lost.

Investing in employees’ knowledge, emotional intelligence and problem solving skills is central to this. Customers will then feel valued, listened to and respected – and this leads to improved trust, loyalty and repeat purchase. Within the context of such an unpredictable landscape Boardrooms ignore this at their peril.

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