I recently listened to a technical webcast where one of the panelists suggested how absurd it was to say that “IT (information technology) needs to align with the business.” The speaker’s point was that we don’t ask if Sales or Finance or Marketing are aligned with the business. Instead, we take it for granted that these functional units are part of the business (and thus aligned). Can the same be said for Customer Service?
The fact that the IT question even exists is instructive because it points to the increasing possibility that IT can be disjoined from the business if it loses relevancy. (IT loses its relevancy as simple “open market” alternatives emerge where users can satisfy their needs faster than they can through IT, their so-called “preferred supplier.” e.g. GoogleMail vs. Outlook.)
Can customer service be separated from the business, and is it appropriate to ask if Customer Service aligns with the business? Yes to both. If customer service is seen only as a cost and not as a benefit to the business, we should expect this question to retain its significance.
Sales stays above the debate fray because they add to the top line. Finance escapes because of their oversight. But in some dysfunctional companies and cultures it is not clear how/if Customer Service (and indeed IT) help grow revenues. (Hint: here are some ways to quantify customer service success that are meaningful to the business.)
The pivot point is that Customer Service leaders must explicitly tie their work to corporate value unless they want to be cast adrift in a sea of irrelevance.
In the end, perhaps we ask the wrong question. Instead we should ask “is your business aligned with your customers?”
In the coming weeks, we’ll examine the four (4) pillars essential to aligning your business with customers’ needs:
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