3 Shifts to Watch For
There is a fundamental reshaping of how businesses operate today, and customer care is at the center of it.
Your next CEO is working in your call
center today—fact. This may come as
a surprise to those who believe that the
customer service function is still simply a
back-office department. It is quickly becoming
the most important part of every business.
In the future, we might see the customer service
leader as CEO-in-waiting rather than someone who
would have risen through the financial side of the
business. Think back to the traditional view of how an
organization is structured, the kind of hierarchical chart
you might have studied in business school. Most of the
business units are discrete units, separate from each
other and reporting to the executive management. In
many cases, you could have people involved in development,
sales or marketing with no direct contact with
customers at all.
Now look at how the multichannel service environment—
stimulated initially by social media—has
changed the way that customers interact with organizations.
Customer service is no longer a function that focuses
solely on dealing with customer issues. Customer
service now involves interactions before, during and
after a purchase. It is the place where the customer engages
with the brand and is now where you are building
a relationship with the customer that you hope will be
an enduring one.
So is it any surprise that the heads of other business
units now want to be aligned with the customer service
team? If the customer service team is building relationships
with potential and existing customers and engaging
with them on a daily basis, then that has a direct
impact on every business unit in the company.
This is not just a case of companies taking customer
service more seriously as a department within their
company; it’s a fundamental reshaping of how any
business operates today. In the long-term, this may
completely change how we think of a “company,” but
what are the immediate consequences of this changing
approach to corporate structure?
I believe there are three changes we are already seeing
that will progress faster in the next year or two:
1. A career in customer service will be more exciting
and more tightly integrated with operations,
marketing and sales.
For this reason, companies are seeing executives with
an operations background and/or Six Sigma credentials
playing a bigger role within the customer service
department. This reshaping of company structures and
the anticipated expansion of customer service across
all facets of the company may soon foster a different
career path for many in marketing, sales, operations and
customer experience. We may soon see newly hired
executives in training spend a portion of their careers
in customer service roles at your contact center. With
a broader range of disciplines anticipated to be directly
involved with your company’s contact center, it’s not
a far stretch to think that your future CEO may have
started in your contact center.
2. More CEOs will have worked in the contact center
earlier in their careers.
Forget about all those number-crunching finance
graduates, there will be many more CEOs in the future
who started out working directly with customers and
worked their way up to a higher corporate position.
Companies are going to need executives who understand
how to relate directly to their customers.
3. Customer service is going to get a lot better.
One company based in Brazil recently reported that
more than 99% of Facebook messages and comments
about its company are responded to within minutes.
Think back just five years when that kind of interaction
with customers was hardly imaginable. Brands are
not just answering customer complaints now; they are
engaging and building lasting relationships.
As we see the corporate world change and take the
role of customer service more seriously and centrally to
the function of their businesses, I believe there will be a
shift from thinking of it as “customer service.” Perhaps
we will start thinking more about lifetime engagement
with customers or relationship management, but however
this evolves over time, one thing is clear: Customer
service is one of the most exciting areas to be in right
now, in any business.