Bringing the voice of your customers into your boardroom and working practices

The Professionalisation Of Service: Skills & Capabilities

Wednesday Social Card

I have been working in and around contact centres for almost 30 years and in that time the landscape has changed enormously! In my early days we had just brought in computers, but it was all “black and green screen technology” effectively filling in a database as we went. Each advisor completed the screen in their own way and there was no real consistency of conversation, but each conversation was very personalised. By the late ‘90’s I was working on a new sales order entry system to make the conversations and transactions flow better. It was in this role that my passion for customer experience was ignited.

I spent months working within the contact centre, taking calls, and listening into others to really understand how the customers engaged with the team. I learned that if you’re going to position an upsell, there’s an art to the timing of that offer and that customers change their minds during conversations and as an agent you need to be flexible and able to move both forwards and backwards during a call, allow it to flow seamlessly and without grumbling at the customer. I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, the impact of treating customers well and fairly had on the bottom line. When we focussed on why the customer was contacting us and were able to respond with timely, personalised information, engagement and commitment levels soared. I have taken that lesson forward in every role and project since.

Over the years I saw the introduction of call scripts, which were to be followed verbatim to bring in consistency and improve productivity whilst reducing costs. They were followed by call ‘guides’ which provided a flow for the conversation but allowed the agents to bring in some personality and personalisation for customers. Again, though the focus was on operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Another perceived ‘operational efficiency’ was the creation of silos with staff recruited and trained to perform one role over and over again – we had “data entry clerks” for entering mail order coupons, we had a different team who were allowed to speak on the phones to customers and place orders that way and others who were recruited for their writing skills who were employed to respond to customer correspondence (I told you I’m old!) – our “Letter Writers”, but they were not allowed to go onto the phones as that took a different skill set. We also moved into the world of outbound telemarketing sales and this team was recruited on the basis of their ability to ‘sell,’ our inbound team were perceived to be passive ‘order takers’ not ‘order makers’!

Over the years the structure and operations of contact centres and customer service teams have evolved enormously and there’s been massive internal focus on achieving operational excellence. We have dashboard and KPIs for almost everything these days and so can manage the metrics closely.

We’ve also seen the development and professionalisation of the service during those years. Back in the day, staff joining contact centres were often seeing it as an entry level role and a way in to a ‘proper’ job elsewhere in the business – marketing, finance, operations etc. There’s always been amazing talent within contact centres and over the years we have seen a real drive to retain those skills within customer-facing roles through the creation of clear roles and a career path with skills development training inbuilt.

With today’s focus on customer experience, it’s clear that to really understand our customers, their needs and wants when they interact with us as businesses, we need to hear their voices, and our customer service teams are my usually my first port of call when I embark on an investigation of what’s actually happening within a business. Thirty years on I still really value my time spent within contact centres and with customer services staff. They’re closest to the action and work daily with customers to build engagement and loyalty. They know what works and what doesn’t and where the fires are burning that need to be tackled. They’re a hugely important element of a Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme. If you’d like to find out more about how to create a VoC programme, then please GET IN TOUCH

Elaine Lee

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

Our website uses COOKIES to help improve your experience. READ MORE or ACCEPT ALL and move on.


Here we explain what cookies are, how we use them and informs you of your choices.

What are cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of text sent by your web browser by a website you visit. A cookie file is stored in your web browser and allows the service or a third-party to recognise you and make your next visit easier and the service more useful to you.

How we use cookies

When you use and access our website a number of cookie files are placed in your web browser. We use these cookies to enable website functionality and to gain insights into your preferences to the services we provide such as to store your preferences to enable advertisements delivery including behavioural advertising.

We use a combination of cookies such as session and persistent. We also use essential cookies to authenticate users to prevent fraudulent use of our website.

For the full disclosure of the types of cookies we use please click here

More information about cookies

If you would like more information regarding cookies please click here to visit the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) website.