Many years ago (many more than I would like) there was a child’s character on spanish TV called Calimero (an unfortunate black chick with half a shell on his head) a bit depressing, who was always complaining about nobody wanting and understanding him . Well, this «Calimero self pity thought» is a «disease» that often afflicts the professionals of Customer Service and that often leads to a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that hurts them as well as their companies.
Some companies create an environment in which sales and growth take precedence, and Customer Service is considered «defensive» and «conservative». A cost that is necessary to have, but that does not contribute to the value provided by those who are designing the products or those who sell them. In addition, a cost that is necessary to reduce by all means, and whose ideal would be 0. Many people think that the best customer service is the one that does not exist (because it was not necessary), and that it would be better to dedicate those resources to other «growing» activities (promotions, research, advertising, etc …).
This results in the fact that sometimes the function is perceived «negatively» by the professionals. They feel «marginalized», their opinion is not considered, the profiles sought for this function are low, it is not understood by the company decisors that it requires any technical knowledge (anyone with common sense can do it) and they are most of the times therefore rewarded below the company average.
There are, however, other companies with a very different approach. They believe that the relationship with their customers is the differential they can offer in a competitive environment that is very tight. They believe that customers will prefer to buy products from suppliers that offer them a better assurance about what is going to happen «after the purchase». These companies even dare to use their bet for the quality of service advertising it as a differential against competition and making it one of the main reasons for purchase. Therefore, service does not become a defensive task but rather a weapon to attack and conquer market share and growth. From a cost that must be minimized to an investment that allows to position themselves with a clear and durable advantage over their competitors.
These companies believe that customer service should have an optimized cost and be effective, true, but never 0, because if that were the case (caricaturing it), they would totally lose any client’s postsale contact and a very important source of information about its own operations. processes and portfolio development opportunities. The total lack of contact generates distance and detachment, and these generate «disloyalty». Companies that understand this need of contact believe, in addition, that they should follow their client in the evolution of their contact needs, developing new channels and making easier their interactions with them.
These companies look for competent and experienced client management professionals, with the necessary technical knowledge to develop the function (that believe me, it´s not that easy), and above all with the passion and commitment to be a fundamental part of the company in the necessary push to develop the business. They are proactive, results oriented and an important part of the «team» even in sales and product development tasks. They are, therefore, a key asset for the company and are rewarded in the same way as all others.
These two types of companies exist today in the market. And it is not always the companies’ fault or a clear strategic decision (being one way or the other). Sometimes the proper client management professionals prefer to take a step back and contemplate from the sidelines the deployment of the different forces that move the company. Either for convenience, or because of lack of professionalism or global vision, they end up focused on their task of «managing calls» without looking beyond and without making the effort to be singled out as a valuable resource for the business.
I have always liked to show a cartoon in my presentations that I found some time ago and that I compare to the Client Management’s position in an Organization. It is the position of those who collect all the Company’s good and bad things, those who have the capability to sustain and help many of the initiatives of their colleagues from other areas, and always have the overall vision that allows to give the best feedback to drive the evolution of the different functions in a client focused Company. It is a position of privilege that must be seized through professionals of the greatest competence, passion and desire to excel, far from a «Calimero mentality» that, wherever it exists, must be eradicated and transformed into pride and regenerative self-esteem.