Better workspaces help drive better customer service

The recent UK Customer Service Institute survey showed
that, across all sectors, levels of customer satisfaction have fallen in recent
years.  The economic situation is of
course playing a part and this is potentially driving some organisations, as the
economy recovers, to push for winning new customers at the expense of focusing on
serving existing customers.  Consumer
expectations are also going upwards, they are more likely to use things like
social media to air any discontent and their needs and preferences are rapidly
changing.
For organisations addressing this, they will take various
measures, some strategic, some tactical. 
This should include examining the service design and those touchpoints
where business and customer interact.  An
often over-looked approach is integrating this with improvements to the working
environment of the staff who deliver the service and the experience that
customers want.
The key message, we think, is that for your people to deliver great customer service they need to be engaged with the business and they need to be working in an environment that supports their work and enables them to be high performing.
The challenge is in developing a workspace that is designed
around and is adaptable to the individual needs of the range of people who work
there.  Often the design focuses more on
the corporate objectives for the workspace: maximising utilisation of floor
space or a top-down belief in what might encourage more collaboration,
creativity or innovation from staff.
A user-centered approach to workspace design is a way of
getting to understand the individuals from the bottom up.  This will explore the range of tasks and
activities they undertake, the different personalities, the different
psychology and the variety of needs.
This approach says that they matter as individuals, and they
are not just a body at a desk.  It can
direct the design to create more personal spaces, allowing people to form
relationships with those around them, it can create personal privacy, spaces where
sensitive issues can be discussed, etc.
Technology in the workplace is seen as a major enabler to collaborative and effective work.  But to do that it has to be almost invisible in the process and it has to be usable for staff and, where appropriate, for customers.
It’s about getting the environment right.  Most workspaces these days tend to be more
open.  Of course this can help
collaboration and communication but it is also frequently a source of
distraction and disruption.  Part of the
solution can be providing a range of different spaces for people to work.  But it also requires that more attention is
paid to the acoustics and understanding the impact of speech intelligibility on
distraction. Providing good access to daylight and a connection to the outside world is well understood as important for wellbeing and effective work.
It’s about getting the details right.  Simple things like providing a place for
coats and personal belongings.  This
reflects that people have them with them and want them at work.  So why pretend that they don’t exist for some
aesthetic purpose?
It is also about focusing on the wellbeing of the people.  Many organisations do good things to try and promote
healthy living: free fruit, gym membership, etc.  But not enough attention is paid to the
workspace and how to encourage healthy, dynamic postures and exercise during
the day.  For example, sit/stand
workstations are still a relatively rare sight in the UK work place.

Investing in good workspace design is a key component in getting staff to
better engage with the organisation and have a sense of place and roots in the DNA of the company.  It is about feeling valued,
that the organisation sees them as an individual not some interchangeable component;
seeing their place in the history of the company and sharing a common purpose.  
It is about projecting the values of the company to all:
showing that staff are important suggests that customers will be too.
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