It’s Week 3 in the 26 week “A to Z” WiseWork series and we’re up to the letter “C”  for Customer Service.

We are now living in the 24/7 world, where instant service is becoming the norm. I can renew my car insurance, book a doctor’s appointment or make a payment from my bank account at any time that suits me. I can buy a book and download it instantly to my Kindle or have the paper version arrive the next day. And I can book a table at a restaurant, buy a cinema ticket or organise my trip to Australia at any time I choose.

As customers we now expect to be able to choose when we deal with a supplier and not be restricted to “opening hours”. Even for retail services that are not delivered over the Internet we expect extended hours or even 24/7 availability. Finding a supermarket that’s open at 3.00am is no longer a problem. So it seem obvious that work should be moving this way. If I can choose when I shop, why can’t I choose when I work?

One excuse used to avoid flexible working is that “Customers won’t like it. They expect people to be working at conventional times”. This is no longer true. Customers expect to have extended hours available from a variety of sources. If I can buy a can of beans at 8pm, why can’t I see my solicitor or my doctor at that time? They also are looking for more flexibility in the way they work so may find it more convenient to work at these times anyway.

The retail sector has solved this problem by employing people on a whole variety of shifts, and it works well. They have been able to match people’s wish to work outside the “9 to 5” shift with the customer’s wish to shop when they please. The hospitality sector has also found that this works well, Hilton Hotels being a good example. So whatever customers you are facing, are you being flexible in meeting their needs? Are you using flexible working as a way of enhancing customer service or are you using customers as a excuse to block flexibility?