Customers, process and people
A Standard Life case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Standard Life 5 Image 1Customer service describes the activity of identifying and satisfying customer needs and, over time, exceeding customer expectations. This case study focuses on how Standard Life has extended its marketing mix beyond the traditional four Ps, Product, Price, Promotion and Place to create a modern focus on Customers, Process and People. This extended marketing mix involves:

  • listening to and understanding customer requirements
  • designing processes to meet these requirements
  • training and developing Standard Life’s people to operate the processes.

Service lies at the heart of the modern service organisation and increasingly dominates the economy. There are two main reasons why customer service has become so important. In every market the customer is now more demanding and more sophisticated. With changing customer expectations, competitors are seeing customer service as a competitive weapon with which to differentiate their sales.

The need for a relationship strategy

In order to attract new customers and keep the existing customers satisfied it is necessary to create value. Value is created by getting the balance correct between what the customer receives and how much it will cost. Investing in an organisation requires a relationship based on trust and confidence - the rewards for the customer are:

  • confidence in the organisation
  • quality product
  • quality service.

In the early 1990s Standard Life had a very different image to the one it has today. Customers saw Standard Life as arrogant, remote, difficult to deal with and above all failing to deliver a quality of service that met their expectations. Clearly this was not promoting a positive image for Standard Life, or encouraging customers to invest in the company. Customers were becoming reluctant to buy from Standard Life due to the poor level of service it provided and would do so only because there were limited options due to poor competition.

People working in the organisation felt frustrated and constrained by the ‘command
control’ style of management. A blame culture existed which concentrated on ‘who?’ rather than ‘why?’ The working practices and procedures at Standard Life suited the company, but did not meet the requirements of its customers. Having received this feedback - and with new players to the financial market keen to take Standard Life’s market share - it was clear to the company that it needed to take action.

Standard Life wanted to differentiate itself against its competition in terms of the quality of service it provided, how existing customers felt about the organisation and what they associated with the name “Standard Life”. However, in order to achieve this, the company needed to completely redefine its management process in order to provide an explicit framework to describe how its operations should be run. The writing was on the wall - improve now or fail in the future.

Standard Life | Customers, process and people