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Stop promoting customer service people

One of the common entry positions
in most companies is the customer service department.  This is the silo where we take nice people who need jobs, and let them interact with our customers.  In some cases, the employee has extensive training about the company’s product or service.  In most cases, however, they are thrown into the lions pit, with only a reference manual or computer system as their defense.

It’s time to sink or swim.
It’s obvious that the sinkers are those I would define as just not cutting it.  No worries, however; these people will be just fine, because they are nice.  And with one more customer service position on their resume, and another set of interviews added to their training, you can be certain they will land on their feet soon.  One day, they may even make it to middle management (and lose that “niceness” quality).

For those who are just treading water,
they will have to start swimming sooner or later.  Otherwise, the job will get tiring, and the complacent will eventually sink or be sunk.

As all swimmers would agree:
it’s a daily grind.  Each day brings on new challenges (that the sinkers passed on), and new knowledge is acquired about the company.  These are the folks who actually care about the customer, and feel compelled to be more than nice: they have a burning desire to aid the customer. As knowledge from the other silos is consumed and loopholes in the computer system are traded, a burning desire to be doing more is the characteristic of someone who will soon leave the department.

It’s promotion time,
and The Company can no longer justify the salary for those champion swimmers.  They have picked up too many skill sets and learned too much about The Company’s products and services.  The only thing to do is “promote” them out of this silo and into a new one.  But do you see the problem here?  They just took someone who is very valuable to the customer, and promoted them away from the customer.

Shouldn’t we be promoting people into customer service and not out of it?

Please stop kicking talent out of the customer service silo.
Seriously, knock it off

  • Joe Sorge

    We are definitely in the water with the metaphors today aren’t we?

    I agree with your concept here and would add that I further believe that the person who’s in charge of “marketing” for company X also be in charge of training #custserv reps. Aren’t THEY really your marketing?

    • http://houseofbrew.wordpress.com houseofbrew

      Oh yeah. Everyone who faces your customer should be part of your marketing strategy, in my opinion. Ideally, all your employees are essentially marketers.

  • http://www.translatordigitalcafe.com Cindi (@deziner)

    Amen! Customer service isn’t a template, it’s a talent. We wouldn’t hire a drummer to play lead guitar in the band just because their salary level is lower. Not quite sure why companies think that works. :)

    • http://houseofbrew.wordpress.com houseofbrew

      There’s certainly a ton of things that companies do that just don’t make sense. I believe that we will start seeing that change in the next 5-10 years.

  • http://card.ly/action_jay Jay Baron

    This has been bugging me for a long time, seeing the constant churn of good agents moving on to other departments or companies. Gives the impression that if you stay put in the front line, you’re a ‘lifer’ with no aspiration.

    Personally, I think the front line is where all the real talent is forged. People skills? Time management? Communication? Teamwork? It all comes together in the day to day of customer service. Keep that senior staff around to provide guidance for new hires, but please don’t take them away from the customers! That confidence and knowledge is needed to improve service in your company.

    Now here’s a crazy idea. What if you took those mid-level execs, people with MBAs and Toastmasters, professional polish and marketing chops and promoted them to the front line to interact with customers? How awesome would your company look represented by this business-guy when compared to a pimply faced, disengaged kid off the street? Just saying, ya know.

    Great post. Keep em coming!

    • http://houseofbrew.wordpress.com houseofbrew

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jay. I don’t think your last idea is a crazy one at all. In fact, it’s exactly what businesses need to start thinking about. Too often we forget about the front line, where the real value is at, where the real relationships are formed, and where the sale is made.

      Nothing happens without a customer, right?

  • Matt Delman

    I’ve done customer service in some way, shape, or form for the past 10 years now (off and on), and I completely agree with Jay and you that we should be sending senior management BACK to the front line of customer service.

    My argument is two-fold though — having been on the front line, I get missives from senior managers that sometimes appear to have no basis in what the ground-floor situation looks like. If we keep truly talented people on the front-line, it seems like those problems will disappear.

    • http://houseofbrew.wordpress.com houseofbrew

      Yes Matt, you are spot on.
      Senior management needs to actively start participating in front line duties. However, what if it were more than just Senior management who moved up to front line? What if more talented employees who are currently hidden away within the company started being a part of a customer’s experience, even if indirectly?

      Since the goal of all business is to make money, and we do that through customers, the entire company should be focused on taking care of those people that are helping the company reach it’s goals.

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