A Glossary of Customer Service Terms
In order to provide full support for Awarding Bodies and their customers, the ICS has drawn up a Glossary of Customer Service terms to complement, in particular, the Technical Certificate Course Outline section on general principles. This step has been taken because many words in common use in relation to Customer Service have broader and more general usage and so require precise definition.
The Glossary therefore provides an authoritative statement of how the ICS interprets these terms. However, it should be noted that this does not prevent more specific interpretation of the same words in the context of a sector, organisation or job role.
So, for example, a complaint is defined in principle by relating it to customer expectations and an
action taken by a customer. Regulators in some sectors may define a complaint as being a comment made in writing. Both of these definitions have their uses and simply because they are different, they are not mutually exclusive.
However, the ICS is committed to extending the use of the language of Customer Service principles and the Glossary definitions should therefore be followed in all qualification specifications that relate to principles and not to a specific context.
Indeed, the ICS will expect all successful Technical Certificate candidates to:
? know the ‘in principle’ definitions
? understand that some of those words may have more specific meanings within individual
In particular, for Awarding Bodies, the Glossary will inform marking schemes and assessment criteria. It will build confidence in what are the right answers to potentially ambiguous questions.
Awarding Bodies should take care to ensure that qualification specifications adhere to the terminology in the Glossary. The definitions are also particularly relevant to assessment criteria especially relating to the guiding principles area of the Course Outline.
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Added Value Added Value is the extra, over and above the basic product or service
offer that an organisation makes to its customers. This added value
represents extra benefits that can truly delight the customers and keep
For example; ‘buy one get one free’ is an added value offer. It goes
beyond the service offer and surprises and delights the customer.
Lower prices may be the ‘service offer’ but then a 50% reduction on
price will give the shopper added value.
Similarly a sudden ‘free upgrade’ in a hotel room or on an aeroplane would
stay in a customer’s memory and encourage return business.
Behaviour The way that you do things.
You do things in a particular way because of
? how you feel
? what you want
? how other people treat you.
customer service transaction the behaviour of the customer and In any
the behaviour of the service deliverer is affected by the way they treat
each other. Behaviour therefore affects the quality of the customer
experience because the way the service deliverer behaves affects the
way the customer feels about the customer service
Body language We communicate using words but they don’t usually tell the whole story.
Body language is a collection of expressions on our face and gestures we
make. Very often body language tells us more about what somebody is
actually thinking than the words they use.
When you are dealing with a customer you can learn a lot about what he
or she is thinking from the body language. This also means that you need
to be aware of the messages you are giving to the customer through your
own expressions and gestures – your own body language.
Code of Many Trade Associations and Professional Bodies have a Code of Practice
practice that guides members on how they should conduct their business.
Most Codes of Practice include guidance on how to deal with customers.
In particular they usually cover how members should deal with
complaints and customer problems,
Codes of Practice do not have the same kind of authority as regulation
and legislation. However, if a member always ignores a Code of Practice
the Association or Professional Body may make it very difficult for that
member to continue in business.
Comparable Some organisations don’t have competitors in the normal commercial organisation sense of the word. Government organisations like the Inland Revenue
and the Police are good examples.
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customer of one of those organisations is trying to rate its But if a
customer service he or she will probably compare it with an organisation
that seems to be similar in what it does or how it is run.
So an Inland Revenue customer may compare their service with the
service they receive from a National Insurance office and a customer of
the police may compare their customer service with that provided by
the fire service or the ambulance service.
Competitor Most organisations are not the only ones that provide particular
products or services. Most customers can choose to use the products
or services of another organisation rather than yours.
So a competitor is an organisation that offers products or services that
are similar to those offered by your organisation. Your customer may
choose to use these other organisations instead of your own.
Competitive Although a competitor is an organisation that offers products or advantage services that are similar to those offered by your organisation. Your
organisation may have the competitive advantage because it is:
? part of a large high street chain
? better placed in the high street
? has car parking outside
? a Global Organisation which can offer goods and services at much
We have witnessed the demise of the small butcher and greengrocer
owing to the growth in high street supermakets where the smaller
organisation could not compete with larger stock levels, lower prices or
longer opening times.
Complaint When a customer feels strongly enough that his or her customer
expectations have not been met, he or she may make a complaint.
A complaint is when a customer brings a problem to the attention of the
organisation and expects some redress, probably over and above simply
supplying the original product or service that was the cause of the
Complaints are often used by regulators as one measure of the success
of the organisation’s customer service.
Consistent Customer satisfaction is affected by customer expectations about the service service they will receive.
If the customer service they receive is different from what they
expected, there is always a danger that customer satisfaction will be
lower than expected.
So many organisations try to deliver the same customer service, time ? ICS – Glossary of Customer Service Terms – August 2007 3
after time, so that the service customers receive matches their
customer expectations and this gives customer satisfaction.
This does not stop organisations from seeking continuous improvement
when customer feedback tells them that there are particular changes to
customer service that will increase customer satisfaction.
Contingency A way of looking at an organisation that recognises that it is shaped and model of an defined by many things including its people, the technology it uses, its
organisation structure and culture and what is going on in the world outside.
All these are constantly changing and a change in any one of them
affects all the others. So the contingency model helps us to understand
how changes drive and shape an organisation. Particularly, it helps us to
understand what needs to be changed to improve the customer service
that the organisation can provide.
Continuous Many organisations try to keep ahead of competitors by providing better improvement customer service.
If competitors also do this, organisations have to keep improving their
customer service to stay ahead. So the process of continuous
improvement helps organisations to make sure this happens as a matter
Customer service is delivered and customer feedback is collected. The
customer feedback is used to measure customer expectations and
The information from the customer feedback is used to find ways of
improving the customer service and changes are made.
Customer service is delivered in a new and improved way and the cycle
Front line staff and support staff are both involved in continuous
improvement but they must have the authority to make the changes that
are needed for the improvements.
Contract A contract is an agreement between two parties that can be enforced
by law. A contract does not have to be in writing but it is more
difficult to prove if it is not in writing.
Sometimes customer service can become part of a contract, usually if
there has been an agreement put in writing. It is generally recognised
that if a customer or service deliverer has to use the contract to
enforce the agreement, customer satisfaction has not been achieved.
Costs and Delivering customer service involves an organisation in spending resources money and using resources such as staff time, equipment and
materials. It is important for you to understand what costs and
resources are involved in delivering customer service in your ? ICS – Glossary of Customer Service Terms – August 2007 4
It is also important to understand how costs and resources will be
affected by any proposed changes in customer service.
Customer A customer is somebody who receives customer service from a
Generally it is easier to see a customer as a person but sometimes an
organisation can be a customer. In most cases a customer or his or
her organisation is paying directly or indirectly for the service that is
If a customer is a private individual or comes from another
organisation he or she is an external customer. If a customer comes
from another part of the same organisation he or she is called an
Customer Some organisations choose to tell customers about their service charter offer in a statement of what they will do for the customer and call it
a customer charter.
Some customer charters set out what the organisation will do to
compensate a customer when customer service has not been
delivered in line with the charter
A customer charter is a statement of intent and is generally not part
of the contract that a service deliverer makes with its customer.
Customer Customer expectations are what people think should happen and how
expectations they think they should be treated when asking for or receiving
Expectations are formed by:
? what people hear and see
? what they read and what the organisation tells them
? what happens during the customer experience
? what has happened to them in other customer service experiences
Generally customer expectations rise and organisations try to match
that rise through continuous improvement in customer service.
Customer Customer experience is what a customer feels and remembers about experience the customer service that he or she has received.
The customer experience of an individual customer service transaction
affects the customer relationship and influences customer
expectations for the future.
When a customer is about to receive customer service his or her
customer expectations are influenced by all the customer experiences
that he or she has had in the past both with your organisation and with
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customer perceptions of Customer Customer feedback is information about
customer service collected by the organisation from customers or given feedback
to the organisation by customers.
Customer feedback can be collected formally using questionnaires or
other kinds of surveys. Informal customer feedback can be collected
from chance remarks or comments the customer has made with or
without being asked.
You must remember that sometimes customer feedback shows that the
customer experience is not what you thought it to be.
If this is the case the customer feedback must still be respected
because if customers perceive things in a particular way, that is reality
for them even if you and your organisation have planned it differently.
Customer Service providers collect information about their customers that helps information them to deliver effective customer service. This information may be as
simple as names and addresses and the products and services that
they have chosen.
Some organisations collect much more detailed information about their
However the information is stored the service provider must comply
with data protection legislation to ensure that information about their
customers remains confidential.
Customer Some customers tend to return to the same service deliverer and this loyalty is customer loyalty. Obviously customer loyalty can be built up if the
customer experience of an organisation has been good.
Customer loyalty is valuable to an organisation because it is generally
cheaper and easier to do repeat business with an existing satisfied
customer than it is to find a new one.
Some organisations choose to reward customer loyalty by making special
customer service arrangements and offers for repeat customers.
Generally customer loyalty means that if an organisation has a problem
with a customer there is a better chance of keeping that customer
afterwards than there would be with a new customer.
Customer Each customer is an individual and customers tend to have different
preferences likes and dislikes . Sometimes, in order to deliver consistent customer
service an organisation chooses to do things in exactly the same way
for every customer.
Sometimes it is possible to offer a customer options so that his or her
customer preferences can be taken into account in the way the
customer service is delivered.
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customer by law, he or she has Customer Once somebody has been recognised as a
certain legal rights. These change as the law changes but customer rights
rights are generally increasing.
The most important customer rights in the United Kingdom are granted
by the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the Supply of Goods and Services Act
1982, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, the Consumer Protection Act
1987 and the Distance Selling Regulations 2000.
Customer Customer satisfaction is the feeling that a customer gets when he or satisfaction she is happy with the customer service that has been provided.
Some organisations try to increase customer satisfaction and talk about
delighting customers or exceeding customer expectations.
Most organisations try to increase the number of customers who are
happy to confirm customer satisfaction when they give their customer
Customer Customer service is the sum total of what an organisation does to meet service customer expectations and produce customer satisfaction. Customer
service generally involves service teamwork and service partnerships.
Although somebody may take a leading part in delivering customer
service it normally involves actions by a number of people in a team or in
several different organisations.
Customer Customer service procedures are the routines and detailed steps an
service organisation uses to deliver its customer service. procedures Some organisations have formal procedures in writing and use those to
train staff and to monitor service.
Many more smaller organisations do not put their procedures in writing
and the procedures are simply seen as ‘the way we do things around
Customer A customer relationship forms as the result of a number of individual
relationship customer service transactions.
Good customer relationships are important to a service provider
because they build customer loyalty.
This is valuable to an organisation because it is generally cheaper and
easier to do repeat business with an existing satisfied customer than it
is to find a new one.
Customer A customer service system involves a number of customer service service system procedures together with the people and resources needed to make it
Continuous improvement may involve changing a customer service
system but this will require appropriate authority to make those
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product or service between a Customer A single exchange of information,
customer and a service deliverer service
A customer service transaction may be face to face or at a distance
by telephone, in writing or by e-mail.
A series of customer service transactions build up a customer service
Data Information about customers that is stored by a service provider must protection be kept confidential and must be dealt with in accordance with the
legislation requirements of data protection legislation.
That legislation is designed to ensure that information collected to help
a service provider to deliver effective customer service is not used for
other inappropriate purposes.
Disability Service providers must comply with disability discrimination legislation
discrimination and show that they offer customer service that does not discriminate
legislation against customers with disabilities.
The legislation is complex and each service provider needs to
establish exactly what obligations it imposes on the organisation
because they are different according to the size of the organisation
and the products or services being offered.
Equal Equal opportunities legislation and regulation sets out to ensure that
opportunities staff and customers are not discriminated against for reasons of ethnic
legislation and origin or gender.
regulation Service providers have obligations to comply with various regulations
and legislation which are different according to the type of product or
service they offer.
External An external customer is a customer from outside the organisation Customer providing a product or service.
Front line Front line staff are people who have the most direct contact with
staff customers either face to face or at a distance. They need service
teamwork with support staff to produce effective customer service.
Health and Service providers have obligations to ensure that reasonable steps have
safety been taken to ensure the health and safety of customers. Health and legislation Safety legislation provides for different responsibilities according to
the products or services that the organisation is offering.
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organisation that focuses on the people in it and Hierarchical A way of looking at an
their jobs. An organisation chart like a family tree shows seniority and model of an
different departmental roles. organisation
Human rights This legislation is mainly from the European Union and seeks to set out
legislation general principles that will protect the human rights of staff,
customers and everybody else an organisation deals with.
Service providers have obligations to comply with this legislation
according to what products or services they are providing.
Internal An internal customer is somebody from the same organisation as the Customer service provider. They are treated as a customer so that they in turn
can provide better customer service to external customers.
So, for example, front line staff may be seen as internal customers of
This arrangement works well in many organisations to help staff who
are not front line staff understand the contribution they make to
Other organisations choose to call the same sort of co-operation a
service partnership in the same way as they form service partnerships
with associated organisations.
Legislation Any organisation offering products or services must abide by laws that
affect their businesses. The rules covered in legislation are enforced
by the courts. Any organisation that does not comply with relevant
legislation may be liable under civil or criminal law.
Mission A mission statement is a brief statement of the main purpose or statement mission of the organisation. Many mission statements include
commitments to customer service as a central purpose of the
organisation in order to provide a focus for staff.
Moments of In any customer service procedure there are several points when truth customer awareness of the quality of customer service is particularly
These points have a greater effect on customer perceptions of the
customer service they have received. It is usually appropriate to pay
particular attention to these moments of truth because they form
customer opinions about customer service as a whole.
'moments of truth' means the points in a transaction, service delivery
or customer relationship at which customer expectations are at their
sharpest and most demanding
eg airlines - as you reach check-in, settling down for take-off etc
eg restaurant - waiter takes order, food arrives at table ? ICS – Glossary of Customer Service Terms – August 2007 9