British business set to gain from new customer service standard


25 April, 2007

  • 68% of customer defection takes place because customers feel poorly treated*
  • 1% reduction in customer service problems could generate an extra £16m in profits for a medium sized company over five years**

The British Standards Institution (BSI) today launches the first national standard in customer service at the Help Desk Institute (HDI) Annual Conference at Olympia.
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.

Reducing customer defections can boost profits by 25-85% and yet in 73% of cases the organisation makes no attempt to persuade dissatisfied customers to stay even though 35% said that a simple apology would have prevented them from moving to the competition***. BS 8477 identifies the essential features that organisations need to address to meet the expectations of their customers and increase customer loyalty and retention.

Robert Crawford, the Executive Director of the Institute of Customer Service, said:
“As the professional body for Customer Service, the ICS welcomes this initiative from BSI. Customer Service has often been the Cinderella of disciplines but the focus represented by this Code may well give it a ticket to the Ball.”

BS 8477 covers principles of good customer services and the obligations of top management, customer service management, customer service employees and other employees. It recommends good practice for day-to-day operations including responsiveness, provision of information, customer interactions, counter/ telephone/ web-based service, organisation of appointments after-sales service and corrective actions, and documentation and records systems. The standard also contains information on how to maintain good customer services including through the recruitment, competences and training of customer service employees.

The standard is applicable to all organisations, irrespective of their size or the nature of the business. It has been written so it can be used by organisations in both the public sector and private sector including banks, telecoms providers, utility companies, supermarkets, travel and tourism providers, local government and government agencies. It is expected that typical users will be customer service managers, helpdesk managers, call centre managers, customer service consultants and customer service training providers.

BS 8477 sets out essential principles for establishing and maintaining effective customer service and provides recommendations on applying these principles. It is primarily aimed at organisations dealing with external customers however the same principles can also apply when dealing with internal customers.

Mike Low, the director of BSI British Standards, said: “The cost of poor customer service to British business is too high to be ignored. Thanks to the input of both industry and consumer groups in the standard’s development, organisations of all sectors will now be able to use BS 8477 to assess their existing customer service policies and practices, identify areas for improvement and make changes as necessary followed by a routine of monitoring and, where practicable, continuous improvement.”

- Ends -

Notes to editors

  1. The launch of the new customer service standard BS 8477 takes place at the opening of the HDI Annual Conference.
  2. 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.
  3. Mike Low is available for comment as is Howard Kendle of HDI who chaired the BSI technical committee that produced the standard.
  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. Statistics: *TARP; **CSM magazine; ***NOP.
  6. 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?
  7. Copies of BS 8477 can be purchased from the BSI Shop