Customer service can change the world

We’ve just started working with Sky on some internal leadership events that they run each year and, once again, my budding obsession with the social power of customer service has been given another prod.

Sky has 10 million customers and 6,000 customer service agents.

Sainsbury’s, one of our other close partners, has 20 million customers and 17,000 colleagues working on tills.

Between just two companies, that’s billions of social interactions between customers and employees every year.

Both of these big, successful brands understand the value of these interactions for almost everything that defines their business – sales, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and many more – and both have been investing more and more in training every year.

But how else could we harness the power of this vast (and growing) mountain of daily human contact and build some social change into customer service?

We’re going to start looking more closely at this and these are some of the things that might get us thinking…

– There are 1.2 million “socially excluded” older people in the UK, who are vulnerable to depression and isolation

– More than 1 in 10 Britons feel lonely “often”

– Helplines like The Samaritans, Childline or Citizens Advice Bureau always need more experienced, patient people on the end of their phones

– The last conversation someone has defines the mood of the next conversation

– The theory of Consequential Strangers and the important role of “weak” social ties and interactions

– My gran, who has a floor covered in ongoing correspondence with customer service departments and only really cares whether or not they’re nice to her (the £3.50 she recently got refunded from Npower gave her no real satisfaction – “the lady on the telephone was very curt”)