The Institute of Customer Service

I was doing a little research for a Value Ireland article I’m hoping to publish in the next few weeks when I came across the Institute of Customer Service. What a great idea, I thought, especially for us in Ireland where we regularly suffer from shockingly poor customer service. According to their website:

The Institute of Customer Service is the professional body for customer service. Our main purpose is to lead performance and professionalism in customer service.

It seems like it’s a primarily UK based organisation, but, strangely, Dublin City Council is something called a “founder council member”. Back in 2005, DCC hosted a conference to try to entice other Irish businesses to join.

Now, I’ll be the first to highlight that I’m very cynical about many of these so-called professional organisations – most of which appear to be for the benefit of those who’ve set them up to keep themselves in jobs through member subscriptions.

But here’s the listing of Irish companies, or other companies who operate in Ireland, who are members of the Institute of Customer Service:

  • Allianz Ireland
  • Avis
  • Bewleys Coffee Ltd.
  • BT
  • Conduit Ltd.
  • Dublin Bus
  • Dublin City Council
  • First Active
  • Halifax Bank of Scotland
  • Irish Life and Permanent
  • Kerry Group
  • Nestle
  • O2
  • Oracle
  • Pricewaterhouse Coopers
  • Stena Line
  • Tesco
  • Ulster Bank
  • Vodafone
  • Zurich Financial (Eagle Star)
From personal experience, having dealt with some of these companies, I can say that I’ve never had issues with the customer service from O2, Dublin Bus, Vodafone, Irish Life & Permanent, Tesco, Stena Line or Eagle Star. I have had serious problems with Ulster Bank and First Active (both part of the same RBS group) and I’ve heard many stories about peoples issues with BT.

Do you deal with any of these companies? Have you noticed that their customer service offering is significantly better than their direct competitors? Should we be crying out for all Irish businesses to become members, or does it not matter. Should membership of such an organisation not actually be a pre-requisite for looking after your customers?

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7 Responses to The Institute of Customer Service

  1. Colm May 12, 2008 at 05:44 #

    Two companies that stand out as not having good customer service in my eperience are Dublin Bus and Vodafone.

    Speaking as someone from outside Dublin the idea that in order to get my change from Dublin bus I have to go to an office somewhere in the city in order to get the money they owe me is poor customer service. Imagine if your local supermarket started a system that required you to take your shopping receipts to their regional office in order to get your change. There would be uproar.

    Also I had a run in with Vodafone over their “mobile internet”. I went into one of their shops and signed up for the option to surf the internet on my phone for 9.99 a month. When I got the largest phonebill in my history the following month I discovered that if you move from one system to another on their network you start incurring charges. This apparently can happen automatically depending on the signal strength and the settings on your phone. After numerous phone calls and e-mails I could not find anyone who was either able or interested in solving the problem for me and the shop assistant who had been so helpful in signing me up to the add-on now turned on the Manuel routine “I know nothing”. Eventually I just switched to O2 and would be very very slow to deal with vodafone again in the future.

  2. Shirley McNabney May 12, 2008 at 13:10 #

    As the writer rightly says The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) is the professional body for customer service. Our primary purpose is to lead customer service performance and professionalism.

    We are a Membership organisation with a community of over 360 Organisational Members and 8000 Individual Members & we are represented in both the UK & Ireland

    In believing that customer service is increasingly the difference between success and failure, ICS helps organisations raise their customer service standards and individuals achieve professional recognition. We provide a framework for Members to learn from one another and offer wide-ranging support for continuous service improvement.

    The types of things we do are
    • advise & guide on world class service issues
    • define professional customer service standards
    • spread authoritative customer service knowledge through our Breakthrough Research
    • offer a range of quality products and services to help organisations and individuals improve customer service
    • promote a wide understanding of what service competence looks like and how individuals can acquire it.

    Above all, ICS helps people and organisations grow in a way that benefits customers, organisational performance and individuals

    For more information about ICS go to http://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com or email me at shirley.mcnabney@icsmail.ie.
    Or why not come along to one of our events? Our Annual Conference is being held at Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Heathrow, London on 21 & 22 October & our Irish Conference in Dublin on 18 November. For more information about these events visit http://www.icsconferences.com

  3. Anonymous May 12, 2008 at 19:07 #

    Interesting to read the original post, and the response from the Institute.

    Shirley – if you’re still there, a couple of questions for you –

    How much does the Institute charge for corporate membership?

    Are there any criteria associated being a member apart from paying the subscription?

    Do you ever throw out members for providing poor customer service?

    Have you an any kind of auditing procedure to ensure that your members are living up to the reputation of the institute?

    How much would it cost to attend your Dublin conference? For an individual or a corporate non-member?

  4. Des May 13, 2008 at 17:27 #

    Bt – oh Dear Lord – they are useless,

    Tesco – ditto – how can they constantly have empty shelves ?

    Ulster Bank – seems to be staffed with incompetents – my old fella has had three deifferent explanations in the past week on how to perform a particular transaction with them.

  5. Value Ireland May 13, 2008 at 22:40 #

    Anonymous – I have e-mailed Shirley at the Institute of Customer Service to see if we can get answers to your questions above.

  6. Shirley McNabney May 14, 2008 at 10:58 #

    Full details of ICS membership and benefits can be found on our website http://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com.

    ICS is not a regulatory body. We do , however offer our organisational members tools to help them to assess their levels of service competency, identify areas for improvement and set action plan for improvement. Again details can be found on our website.

    With regards to cost for our Irish conference this is around 370 Euros for non members.

    Hope to see you there!

  7. Serial May 14, 2008 at 21:50 #

    One possible benefit of the Institute is the promotion and recognition of CS as a career and indeed profession in itself. This should have a knock-on effect in improving customer service to end customers.

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