#3 Posted: 20 Aug 2007 16:13
Cmolen, when I read your posting, I see two ways I need to interpret the situation. One is picturing you coming in as a new person heading up a CS group, and the other is picturing what this CS group was, is, is perceived to be, and what the uppermost management wants it to be.
When I look at the "you" version, I think you want to backtrack and see what was literally said about what was intended for your role when they originally met you (and rightly so). Were there indications this company would not see the CS employees as the higher crust of relationship management that you want to build in them? (That they would not be considered "senior enough"?) If so, then you would want to take those historical impressions and conversations into account when assessing your own satisfaction with the taste in your mouth right now.
Also on the "you" track, I think you have an issue with your boss (not sure if that is a VP or otherwise) slashing ideas/allocated budget without even discussing with you. You would be right to have an issue with that. I don't know what the terms and boundaries would be at your company, but I would think that a director is the next layer (after your boss) of holding a vision on what a division of people will do, and the ownership of where money goes and where the empowerment in the ranks reporting into that larger umbrella ought to be in your hands... and it's up to you and the next one up from you to work out how agreement/disagreement is worked out. There's a misalignment of vision there (not necessarily enormous.
From my most realistic as well as optimistic perspective, I can see more than one possibility where relationship management can take new heights for the people in the CS group (and I am starting to segue into that other interpretive path). Part of me sees this as very costly and not automatically worth it from a brass tacks mindset. A lot of people who look for dividing lines between account management and project management and "service" itself ought to be interested in this part of my reply. You could say that the ownership of the relationship between how a group of CS professionals and the company is more of an account management role than one in the CS arena. That wouldn't sit well with some other posters, but I know this is how some companies need to operate. In your company, I think the higher ranks of customer service have a greater opportunity at being involved in the relationship with clients signing onto business contracts. In others, that isn't how it works, and a "workforce management" approach is fostered instead, and employees in CS either leave the company or move to a different function of the company or stay if they are getting what they want. (Very broad brush there.)
One of the reasons why it could be important for clients to meet CS people is that clients usually like having one point of contact they can rely on if there are going to be frequent interactions between businesses. They want a person and not menu options. If it's not possible for travel to be expensed for multiple CS individuals in your company, then whenever clients are on site at your place, then you can maximize the opportunities for them to meet the CS staff. Results-minded clients sometimes want to see who they or their people are dealing with--and sometimes who is being entrusted to take on tasks that are being farmed out.
And a reason I think it would be important to empower at least some of the CS staff to be more engaged with client relationships is that when you create echelons within the department you are allowing for stages of growth, and if your company wants to induct a certain number of client relationship builders, then there is plenty of room for that career growth to start with people that work in CS, as they may move into sales or other types of operations or management. (Unless they want to stay in CS longer, which is not the environment within which I work, due to the nature of the company/industry and the types of people we attract.)
Without having Clue One as to the reasons for your boss slashing without even discussing (which I don't condone, if that's literally how it happened), I wonder if that person has done any of the thinking I rambled up above. If there are ways to retain good employees that can represent the product and the identity that you guys have, then there are ways to find to grow them in the organization that do not have to amount to them traveling to see clients at the expense of your company. (I see this as a sales or pre-sales function.)
I don't see a lot on what you think about the inside sales team that you are setting up. Does the design of this group fit in with what you want to accomplish?