Customer Service Excellence

Customer Service Excellence is the successor to Charter Mark, the UK Government's national standard for excellence in customer service. It was developed to offer public services a practical tool for driving customer-focused change within their organisation. At the heart of the tool is the Customer Service Excellence standard which tests those areas that research has indicated are a priority for customers, with particular focus on delivery, timeliness, information, professionalism and staff attitude. Emphasis is also placed on developing customer insight, understanding the user’s experience and robust measurement of service satisfaction. College, national and university libraries are all eligible to apply, and a number of SCONUL members have successfully achieved Customer Service Excellence.

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Customer Service Excellence is designed to operate on three levels:

As a driver of continuous improvement

Organisations are able to self-assess their capability in relation to customer-focused service delivery by using an online self-assessment tool to identify areas and methods for improvement. By posing a series of questions around the five criteria of the standard, Customer Service Excellence builds a picture of your organisation to define its current level of customer focus.

As a skills development tool

At the heart of Customer Service Excellence are well researched concepts around the key aspects of customer insight and how this can be used to deliver a truly customer focused service. It provides advice and guidance on a whole range of tools and techniques that can be used to deliver excellence. In this way both individuals and teams can learn new skills and gain greater understanding of these important concepts and how they can be used to build a truly customer focused culture.

As an independent validation of achievement

By allowing organisations to seek formal accreditation to the Customer Service Excellence standard, to demonstrate their competence, identify key areas for improvement and celebrate their success.


In order for an organisation to be recognised as achieving Customer Service Excellence, assessment is made against the criteria of the standard by one of the licensed certification bodies. Further details of these bodies are available on the Customer Service Excellence web site.

The five criteria of Customer Service Excellence are outlined below. The detailed criteria are available at:

  • Customer Insight

Effectively identifying your customers, consulting them in a meaningful way and efficiently measuring the outcomes of your service are a vital part of this approach. It's not just about being able to collect information about customers, it's about having the ability to use that information for their benefit.

  • The Culture of the Organisation

To cultivate and embed a customer service culture there must be a commitment to it throughout all levels of an organisation, from the strategic leader to the front-line staff.

  • Information and Access

Customers value accurate and comprehensive information that is delivered or available through the most appropriate channel for them. Putting the customer first can be an important step towards providing effective communications.

  • Delivery

How business aims are achieved, the outcomes for customers and how problems are managed can determine the organisation's success. Listening to customers views about the service provided can be just as important as achieving key performance targets. Comments, feedback and complaints from customers can help to make vital adjustments to the way the organisation runs which can support better delivery.

  • Timeliness and Quality of Service

The promptness of initial contact and keeping to agreed timescales is crucial to customer satisfaction. It is important that speed is not achieved at the expense of quality, therefore the issue of timeliness has to be combined with quality of service to ensure the best possible result for customers.

Where Charter Mark was designed for public sector organisations only, Customer Service Excellence has no such restrictions on eligibility. Organisations in the UK that want to achieve Customer Service Excellence through formal assessment, whether they are in the public, private or voluntary sectors, are able to do so.


The exact cost depends very much on the individual circumstances of the organisation. Certification bodies can provide these details.


Customer Service Excellence can benefit both staff and organisations in a number of ways:

Successful applicants can use Customer Service Excellence as recognition of the high standard they have achieved in customer service, demonstrating to themselves, their staff, their customers and partners, and the wider public the high level of service that can be expected.

As well as the main aim of improving customer service, Customer Service Excellence holders report that success has a positive impact upon staff morale by acknowledging their commitment to customer care and the service they actually deliver. Many organisations are able to meet related corporate objectives as a result of applying Customer Service Excellence principles, and some are able to map the work they do for Customer Service Excellence against other initiatives such as Best Value, the Investors in People standard and EFQM Excellence Model. Like Charter Mark, Customer Service Excellence is beginning to gain widespread public recognition, thereby enhancing the profile of holder organisations and potentially breeding further success by attracting more customers.

Customer Service Excellence recipients have found positive impacts by:

  • increasing customer focus
  • improving consultation with users
  • improving staff morale
  • developing better internal processes
  • developing more effective service delivery
  • improving complaints handling
  • delivering more cost effective services.

Experience of Customer Service Excellence
Details of institutions who hold CSE, and members of staff who are willing to be contacted