New customer service guidelines from BSI

Press release: 18th May 2007

A survey carried out to mark the launch of a new national standard on customer service from BSI British Standards has revealed that 88% of consumers think that customer services in the UK would benefit from a defined set of standards.

The survey showed that while British consumers reward great service they also punish providers of poor service. When customer service falls below expectations businesses risk damage to both their reputation and profits with 76% of consumers claiming they have moved to a competitor. However 91% of those who receive exceptional customer service are more likely to go back to the same business and 79% say they would recommend it to a friend.

BS 8477 - Code of Practice for Customer Service has been designed to provide good practice against which organisations can benchmark their customer service and differentiate themselves from competitors. Developed by a collaboration of consumers and industry representatives, the standard establishes principles of good customer service, obligations of senior management and customer service management. It also recommends good practice in day-to-day operations including responsiveness, provision of information, customer interaction, counter/ telephone/ web-based service and documentation and record systems.

Guidelines on counter service include recommendations on the old British favourite of orderly queuing: “the queuing arrangements should be prompt and fair”. In the case of a repair being made, the standard states that employees should “clearly empathize with the customer”.

BS 8477 compliance can help cut the costs of complaints

Mike Low, Director of BSI British Standards, said, “Poor customer service is the largest cause of customers moving from one provider to another. BS 8477 offers an opportunity for all businesses, regardless of size, structure or sector, to benchmark their customer services and increase loyalty and retention. Compliance with the standard will provide organizations with a means of differentiating themselves from competitors and help cut the costs of complaints.”

There are tangible gains to be made by enterprises adopting a code of conduct on customer service. Reducing customer defections has been found to boost profits by 25-85% and yet in 73% of cases identified, the organization made no attempt to persuade dissatisfied customers to stay even though 35% of customers said that a simple apology would have prevented them from moving to the competition.*

BS 8477 - Code of Practice for Customer Service provides information relevant to a wide range of organisations including banks, telecom providers, utility companies, retailers, travel and tourism providers, local government and government agencies.

Notes to editors

  1. BSI British Standards is the UK’s national standards body, working with government, businesses and consumers to represent UK interests and facilitate the production of British, European and international standards to meet economic and social needs.
  2. The survey was carried out for BSI by between 26 April and 1 May 2007 following publication of BS 8477 on 23 April.
  3. * Statistics: source NOP
  4. BS 8477 complements the existing standard on complaints handling, BS ISO 10002:2004, and the forthcoming BS ISO 10001 and BS ISO 10003 on codes of conduct for customer facing staff and dispute resolution mechanisms both of which are expected to be published this Autumn. The standard can be used in support of BS EN ISO 9001:2000 registration and its approach is compatible with that of ServiceMark, who were involved in its development. BS 8477 will also complement the revised Chartermark scheme being developed by the Cabinet Office and will be suitable for use as a tool by organisations going for Chartermark accreditation. 
  5. Members of the BSI Technical Committee responsible for developing this standard include representatives of the Institute of Customer Service, the Help Desk Institute, ServiceMark, Energywatch and Which?