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Why it's time to challenge the customer service career myth

9th Sep 2015
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The contact centre industry attracts incredibly talented and motivated people from all walks of life who share one thing in common – a passion for customer service. However, as it grows in the UK and Europe, there is increasing demand for more talented people.

It’s time for the industry to finally stand up and challenge the misconceptions about a career in customer care if we are to attract the best talent and nurture the industry leaders of the future. As indication of the market potential, analyst house Frost & Sullivan recently estimated the value of the European Call Centre Outsourcing industry at €14 billion with a projected growth rate of 3.3% per annum until 2019, meaning the customer care industry is growing at a faster rate than ever before.

Nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurial thinkers

Changing customer expectations will play a pivotal role in the contact centre of the future as consumers use increasingly varied channels to connect with organisations. The growth of the industry will be fuelled by this rise in the use of technology, such as social media and web chat, as customer contact channels. This in itself represents a great opportunity for bringing new talent into the industry, particularly digital natives who are children of the internet age. Additionally, industry trends including onshoring and nearshoring will also see an increase in customer care roles in the UK and across Europe.

The myth that contact centre roles offer little to no career advancement must be challenged for the industry to recruit and retain the best talent. For example, Sitel offers unparalleled training schemes, industry qualifications and the opportunity to work across a range of areas from big-name household brands through to customers with specific access needs, like the visually impaired or hard of hearing. The skills gained from these roles, such as dealing with client pressures, new contact channels and technologies, motivating teams and financial planning, will serve any entrepreneurial thinker well in their professional lives for years to come.

Whilst part-time, flexible and seasonal customer care workers will always form the bedrock of the contact centre industry, for the right entrepreneurial candidates there are plenty of routes to leadership positions. Those employees with a passion for customer care and service delivery, as well as a proactive approach to their work, will have as much, if not more, opportunities for career advancement compared to any other industry.

Customer care self-promotion

We must do a better job of promoting the dynamism and prospects accessible from a career in customer care. To do this, it is vital for industry leaders to lead the charge in changing the abiding view of the industry. We collectively must start shouting about how customer experience management touches so many business skills and is so far removed from the industry’s ‘dial and smile’ image.

We need to promote how great people are doing amazing things for our clients and how the skills they acquire will stand them in good stead for wherever else their career takes them. Customer experience management careers should be seen as an attractive route for school leavers looking at post GCSE and A-Level options as well as graduates and experienced hires. To do this, candidates must be able to see the opportunities in the industry and a clear career trajectory. The industry has already changed massively with more and more companies choosing to outsource as brands recognise that offering a better customer experience can increase competitive advantage.

The path forward

Addressing these issues is of course a task that’s bigger than one company or person but there are small things that can be done to begin the process and make a significant difference. One step is adjusting how the industry engages with schools and careers advisors. For instance, our managers in the UK are encouraged to interact with the local community as much as possible to position a career in customer care as a viable long-term aspiration. Companies should also celebrate their people – demonstrating their passion and the lengths they go to for brands and their customers.

This is an incredibly dynamic industry, filled with some of the most talented people in the country. For the industry to continue to thrive, we must start shouting about the benefits of a career in customer care. If we can do that, we will find that there is no shortage of candidates who will relish the intellectual challenges and career opportunities on offer. In the end, it’s in all our interests to challenge the myths about a career in customer care.

Karl Brough is general manager UK, Ireland & Nordics at Sitel.

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