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One in three axe customer service training to survive recession


A third of organisations have slashed customer service training this year in order to combat the effects of the recession, a survey has revealed.

The stark warning issued today by the Institute of Customer Service follows its recent poll which found 30% of organisations surveyed have cut investment in customer service training and 21% have laid off customer-facing staff in 2009.

However, the “slash and burn” approach to cost cutting could damage relationships with customers at a time when competition is fierce and high satisfaction levels are vital to survival. Jo Causon, the Institute’s chief executive has warned that it is dangerous to see training as the place to cut costs because in the current climate there is more competition for customers than ever.

In fact Retail Week recently reported that a third of consumers intend to spend less this Christmas than they did last year therefore it is those who develop the talents and contributions of all their staff that will motivate their people, improve customer loyalty and boost profits. “Investing in your people is a key differentiator in business today. An organisation that emphasises customer service, through training and development, goes a long way to retaining staff – which motivates them to satisfy customers," Causon said.

The good news from the poll is that one in five organisations increased investment in customer service and a fifth said the recession had no effect on their business strategy while earlier this week Tesco announced plans to invest over £3 million to develop their senior managers and directors through the Tesco Academy during the next 12 months.

“Experts predict we are looking at a flat Christmas, particularly in retail, and our advice is to embrace a strong service culture to keep customers satisfied. I applaud Tesco for its investment in training at this time," said Causon.

The poll also found only 6% of organisations has cut investment in technology. “Technology can only take you so far in customer service delivery. It is your people who are on the front line and they need to be highly trained and motivated to consistently meet and even exceed a customer’s expectations, with technology working in parallel, so that people, processes and strategy are truly aligned around the whole customer experience," Causon concluded.

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