Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

In the City, You are Never More Than 6 Feet from a Customer Service Employee….

… to borrow from a well-known “ick-factor” myth.   Now whether or not it is true that in a city you are never more than 6 feet from a rat, a new survey from the Institute of Customer Service confirms that we are indeed very likely to be close to a customer service employee, given the dramatic rise in the number of people employed in these roles.

The number of people employed in customer service occupations has tripled since 2002 and now stands at 328, 000 which is 1.5% of the employed adult population. 

This means that there are slightly more customer service employees than accountants, more than twice as many as CIPD-registered Human Resources professionals and almost three times as many customer service employees as the number of practicing lawyers and Gas Safe heating engineers, prompting the Institute of Customer Service (IoCS) to argue for the professionalisation of the role.

It would certainly reflect the importance of the role to the economy, as the IoCS study reports that almost 77% of the UK’s GDP is now service related.  However, given that average earnings for customer service employees are 34% below the national average wage (£14,868 vs £22,568), the appropriateness of the urban myth of the title takes on another nuance.

Could it be that a good many employers are significantly undervaluing their customer service employees and the return on investment they bring? 

Are they concentrating on “putting bums on seats” rather than considering the unique qualities that enable someone to deliver outstanding and engaging brand-specific customer service?

Might they even have a view of the people who fill their critical customer-facing roles that indicates a “lesser species” mentality?

Yes it’s harsh and probably unfair, but let’s face it – the average customer service employee is paid only just over minimum wage, retention rates are expected to be low and at the coal-face individuals often feel eminently expendable and replaceable.  And aren’t customer service employees in contact centres often herded together en-masse in separate buildings to other employees, given highly controlled work to do and subjected to “special” management practices and expectations in order to get them to perform? 

I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that there may be similarities to the conditions of a lab rat. 

But, of course, this isn’t the whole picture. 

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