Tuesday – Service with Respect Day

01 October 2021

This week we are celebrating #NCSW21.

James McConville is the Customer Resolution and Audit Manager at Carpenters Group. James qualified as a solicitor over 7 years ago and has worked in his current role for 3 years. Here, he reflects on some of the steps Carpenters have taken to deal with increasing customer demands.

This week marks the second National Customer Service Week since the pandemic and, as ever, is a time for reflection.

Of course, Covid-19 brought with it challenges for all aspects of business including financial cash flow, furlough and logistics in establishing new IT infrastructures. It could have been all too easy to forget that, on the other side of our screens, is the customer.

Many customers have shown and continue to show empathy and understanding since the dawn of the pandemic. Most have acknowledged the challenging times faced by businesses across all industries.

In fact, many have taken the time out of their busy lives to let us know how appreciative they have been of our efforts in such turbulent times. “Everything went really smoothly regardless of the current circumstances with Covid” and “Even during the Covid-19 lockdown my emails and calls were responded to promptly” are but a couple of examples of the warmly received feedback we have received.

However, we must ensure that we do not become complacent and to ensure our focus is firmly fixed on the customer journey or that customer understanding will wane. In fact, customer patience and empathy started to fade after the first lockdown started to lift, and, perhaps, understandably so.

Our customers are just like the rest of us and had to feel their way through the crisis. Many have been faced with the financial pressures of furlough, been tasked with home schooling for the first time and, crucially, many have developed a deeper appreciation for family, friends and their own sense of well-being. Demand for a service customers can trust and rely upon has never been greater.

This, in turn, has seen an increase in tougher interactions with our customers. There has been a notable rise in customer frustration over the last 15 months with accusations that Covid-19 is “a simple cop out” we wish to hide behind. This can lead to some difficult conversations with our customers. It is fair to say that our team has faced an increased level of aggression over the last 12 months.

All of our front-facing colleagues receive customer service training in their induction at Carpenters and in recent months all colleagues have received further training on how to deal with difficult and demanding customers and complaints. As our offices have slowly re-opened so our staff have returned and found additional support from colleagues and managers, that face to face contact provides extra reassurance and support when dealing with demanding customers.  

The reality is, whilst business may be “over the worst of it”, the impact of Covid-19 is unfortunately going to be long lasting and deep rooted for many sectors.

Thankfully, the crisis also brought about many unseen benefits. New flexible agile ways of working have been a welcome change to the norm and has seen an increase in productivity. A renewed focus on our processes, investment in the right technology, and a stronger commitment to the customer journey has found us on very steady ground with our corporate clients and private customers.

We are firmly business as usual. Yet, with that said, we must continue to adjust alongside our clients and customers. It is important, now more than ever, that the customer journey remains at the forefront of our minds as we continue to wade our way through the “new normal”.

So, how do we do it? It is quite simple really and communication is, of course, key.

We must strike the right balance between providing a reactive, agile and adaptive service (in the face of the ever-changing landscape) and a more proactive customer-centric one. Minimising customer effort is crucial to providing a frictionless and stress-free customer journey.

Some simple yet practical tips we can all employ day to day:

  • Making an initial and maintaining regular courtesy calls. This is a great opportunity to get to grips with a claim and build a good rapport with the customer.
  • Acknowledging customer emails as they come in so they know we are here, we are proactive and things will be dealt with as soon as possible.
  • Before leaving a file, consider giving the customer a call, email or even a text by way of a quick update.
  • Using your diary effectively and scheduling in a customer update every 28 days.
  • Managing customer expectations on timescales. If they know what to expect and when, they will be more content in letting you get on with it.

Ultimately, we have come out the other side stronger than ever. We will continue to engage with our corporate clients and private customers and tailor our services around them.

We are incredibly proud to have remained “professional in [our] manner and especially during Covid-19”. Even through these challenging times, our ongoing commitment to Customer Service will allow us to step ahead of the pack and keep Carpenters Group as one of the UK’s leading providers of insurance and legal services.”