It’s time to redefine careers in customer service. For too long, the contact center has been seen as a place for temporary or transient work - something you do over the summer months before heading back into university. If you look at the level of skills in any modern contact center then it is obvious that all these stereotypes are dated, but somehow they persist.
Look at this recent article in HR Director magazine. It talks about how the customer journey has evolved, how customers now learn about new products from so many different places and then engage with brands using so many channels. Supermarkets talk about food on Instagram. Car companies discuss new models on Twitter. Modern customer communication is a dialogue that can continue for decades. Smart companies are now measuring the total lifetime value (LTV) of customers and thinking very carefully about how they engage.
The modern contact center environment requires agents to directly talk to customers, but there are many other skills that support and augment the work of the agents. For example cloud technology, data security, compliance in regulated industries, the Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, biometrics, data analytics, and language skills.
That gives a picture of the modern contact center, but it’s just an overview. Any one of these subjects requires deep expertise. Imagine trying to design predictive data analytics for a retailer so you can literally predict what customers will order before they actually do it.
But why did I say redefine careers?
Customer service retains this idea of a limited career. In the past, working as a customer service agent may have been a stepping stone to a job in marketing or sales, but now there are so many more options. I feel that all of us in this industry need to make these opportunities more visible.
At the entry-level it is probably possible for some other jobs to outbid working as an agent. Maybe you can find a job in a warehouse or driving that pays a little bit more than an entry-level agent, but where is the progression in these jobs? A driving job will always remain a driving job. Picking and packing in a warehouse will always remain the same.
The reality is that many of these manual jobs may eventually be replaced by robots, but let’s focus on the immediate future. A young person looking for an entry-level job might find that they can earn slightly more in a warehouse than in a contact center, but where is the career progression?
Our industry creates a pathway to the future. You can still move from the contact center to great sales or marketing opportunities. You can use customer service experience to move into senior management roles - I think that one day CEOs will see it as a badge of honor that they served their time talking directly to customers.
But there are now so many other career directions that can start out in the contact center. Analytics, technology, security, compliance and regulation… maybe you are studying AI at university and can combine the real experience of customers with academic knowledge?
The list goes on, but it is clear to me that most younger people seeking entry-level jobs are very focused on joining an attractive employer that is working hard on genuine sustainability - not just greenwashing their annual report.
Combine this focus on ESG with a desire to improve existing digital skills and build a career pathway and I think there should be a dramatic reevaluation of what contact centers have to offer. If you care about where you work and you want to build a career then this is a fantastic place to start out because there are so many options for the future.
First published on LinkedIn by Jonas Berggren, June 2022.