SOCAP International

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.

2013 Bowman Headshot FB (2)Matthew Bowman is global vice president of demand generation at Teleperformance. He is a seasoned global business executive with expertise in the customer experience, customer data analytics, marketing ROI and in accelerating customer acquisitions. He has been spotlighted by business journals like Business Week, Utah Business Magazine, among others. Bowman has been a frequent keynote and is a member of the Chief Marketing Officer Council.