Originally a mainstay of public service organisations, customer charters are now becoming a key differentiator for forward-thinking businesses across all sectors. A clear statement of promises and intent to customers, a customer charter puts the concept of customer centricity at the heart of your organisation.
A customer charter not only demonstrates to customers what they can expect from you, but also acts as a guide to your employees, outlining what is expected of them and how they can contribute to the delivery of exceptional customer experiences.
But, just as with customer experience programmes, you cannot simply pay lip service to a customer charter. Having a statement outlining your customer promises is not the same as embedding it across every part of your business, engaging your employees with what it means, and ensuring that those promises are met.
Taking a strategic approach to a customer charter – just as with all other aspects of customer experience – is now essential if you’re aiming to deliver value back to the business. This means tying your charter to your corporate culture, the values of your organisation, and the goals you are aiming to achieve.
Doing so enables your organisation to reap both the internal and external benefits that come from focused, purposeful customer centricity, including:
Exceeding customer expectations
Today’s competitive landscape means that it’s not enough to meet your customers’ expectations – you need to exceed them. That’s why we recommend that your charter goes beyond a simple checklist of service level agreements, communications processes or generic service statement. Instead, it needs to be built around what your organisation stands for. How does your business put the customer at the centre? How do you engage employees to deliver superior customer experiences? How do you act when things don’t go to plan?
Taking a holistic approach to customer experience naturally feeds into a more strategic, ROI-driven approach to developing your customer charter. As a result, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to identify how to go above and beyond for your customers to exceed their expectations.
Employee motivation and engagement
Any business can make a vague commitment to uphold strong customer service standards, but with a strategic customer charter, you are clearly defining just what good customer service looks like to you and enthusing your staff to meet these standards. All staff, at all levels, from your warehouse operatives to your frontline sales team, will not only know what is needed from them, but will also understand how they can achieve it.
This is a critical part of employee engagement: employee buy-in to the values and promises your organisation stands for, and is particularly important in today’s workforce, as recent Gallup statistics show.
Positive, engaged client relationships
A strategic customer charter not only lets your customers know what sort of service they can expect to receive at every touchpoint, but also demonstrates how the organisation as a whole thinks and behaves in order to deliver it. By performing to your promised standards, you can proactively improve customer engagement and build long-lasting, positive customer relationships. As a result, customers are more likely to choose you consistently over your competitors and become loyal brand ambassadors.
Delivering better customer experiences, driving employee engagement with what your business is trying to achieve, and securing longer-term, valuable customer relationships all connect together to deliver returns to the organisation. This doesn’t only mean at a financial level, but also in terms of your reputation, customer loyalty and recommendations, and employee engagement and loyalty.
Understanding the benefits of a strategic customer charter allows you to develop it with a clear vision of what needs to be included.
What should your customer service charter look like?
To create a charter that truly meets the needs of your customers, you will need to base your promises on customer experience insight. You should listen to what your customers are saying at every point of the customer journey, look at where you are currently letting your customers down, and the sort of improvements that would make a difference for them. Only once you understand your customers, can you go about designing an effective customer service charter.
We recommend a clear process:
Outline your areas of focus – it’s not enough to simply say “we promise to deliver excellent customer service”. You need areas of focus, specific to your business and sector, for them to be promises your customers can relate to and your staff can commit to.
Set your standards – you need to outline what customers can expect whenever and wherever they interact with you – a customer wandering into your store is just as important as one that asks a question on social media. Where possible, be specific with your standards, whether this be defining how long they can expect to wait for an answer or specifying who they can contact if they wish to escalate a complaint.
Consider offering a guarantee – this demonstrates to customers that you are serious about your commitment to good customer service and may encourage them to choose you over competitors.
Implement it! – It’s all well and good writing a customer service charter, but it is essential to properly action it by sharing the document,and what it means, with all employees. There are several ways to do this, but not all have the full impact:
- routinely discussing it in company meetings
- making it part of the company starter pack, and use it as a living, breathing document that is regularly updated based on feedback from staff and customers alike
- Ideally embed it in a creative way into employee learning and training.
Once implemented, you will begin to see improvements in customer retention, engagement and your bottom line.
As with any customer experience initiative, the results rely entirely on activation. Creating a customer charter and then failing to deliver it will not only hold you back but is likely to have a clear detrimental impact on your business. If your customer service charter is not properly actioned, you will fail to meet the promises outlined, working against your organisational culture, damaging employee engagement, removing trust and costing you loyal customers.
You can read more about creating and embedding a Customer Charter in our guide here.
Written by Nicole Holt, Head of Research