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#1   Posted: 9 May 2007 12:23

My company is a manufacturing company and for the past 28 years at least Customer Service has belonged to Sales. They have just moved us under Supply- as they feel we are part of the order supply process...which , I agree that we are for that one respect of supply.

I personally think that Customer Service is part of sales as we are the front line to the customer for sales issues, orders, problems and account management. We also do some inside sales. I think that putting us under supply could be a conflict of interest so to speak..

Any comments or advice? Curious as to others opinions and insight.

Ayaree - any comment....looking to hear from you on this...

#2   Posted: 10 May 2007 03:43

My company's ethos is that Customer Services is at the centre of the business, as it feeds and feeds off every other sector of the business.

Having it a stand alone dept has enabled the rest of the business to realise the importance of it to their success. It also allow the customer service advisors to feel that their jobs are valued and important. Customer Service is a career that they should feel proud of and not just a low temp job.

We have in the past reported into sales and supply and it has always led to customer service being pulled in different directions. Customer Service should be on it's own; it is too important to a company to be lost in another structure.

#3   Posted: 10 May 2007 06:06

Hi there,

I totall agree with Mondie.

To put customer service under the report of one department or function gives the impression that only that department should lead in customer service. I beleive customer service should be central to everything the company does, both internally and externally. I believe that the head of customer service should report directly to the MD as they should know exactly what is going on in this respect.


#4   Posted: 11 May 2007 21:49

Pati, good to see you again, I've been thinking about your other recent posts....will watch for any developments regarding those.

I have more than one reaction when I read this, and I think it might be because I am at a transition point of my own (how many times have I said that in the last few years, I wonder).

Where a customer service work force can rest within a company depends on a lot of things I won't ramble on about, and I am not the PhD in building companies either. But for instance, we know that it depends on how big the place is, what does it mean if this team is a cost center way more than a profit center, blah blah. It's all going to come down to whether somebody is going to lose a big customer or not and whether the kind of things a customer service skill can deliver is going to be part of what keeps that puppy in the house. You have this big range of business variables to look at objectively, and that's what I am trying to do.

I have seen instances where project management is seen as part of sales yet also operations, they're in the middle. I have seen cases where people (acount managers, project managers, functional managers, etc) are part of making a sale a "repeat sale" or flourish into the right kind of sale or part of making the sale happen in the first place NOT be considered "sales." I have seen customer service day-to-day people as crucial to the goals of sales people and yet be considered "just call center." I've even seen cases where customer service has not even been called "customer service" but the "support" team to some area of the company that has targets for it. And I've seen cases where different types of customer service (one a more sales-oriented kind and the other a more product order/logistical kind) have been pulled together into one group with an effort toward putting together a single effort at customer service that needed to be improved. Some of that is my experience, first-hand, some of it not.

I've been frustrated and pleasantly surprised and "mixed" about all of the cases I have seen, heard about, dealt with.

I do know that there is a virtue to being part of a supply side, because there tends to be a focus on constant success and meeting service levels, and there tends to be a general orderliness and team feel to it (tends to; not pervasive, as there can be "backbiting"). I also know there is a rewarding feeling had by those that are part of supporting a new "win" by a demanding, crazy, creative, messy, ingenious/stupid, love-to-hate sales person (that's a deliberate exaggeration, by the way). In my experience, I have been officially under both types of umbrella and found myself weaving unofficially in both areas, even by request. I encounter my rewarding moments and my frustrations in both types of setting.

I like the spirit in what Mondie and Barry said and I do think customer service needs to represent what a company has to offer (therefore, why isn't it more central and on its own), but I can't objectively say that it works for every company. That's because I know that the skill that comes out of customer service can be placed in an area that needs it.

But wherever it resides, it needs to have ongoing, "interested" management support for the people that are delivering the hands-on skills (not occasional puppet/figurehead management within that division) and it needs overarching support to reinforce the identity and culture that customer service people would need while nestled within a business unit called something else, like Supply. (I've seen that NOT happen, but it can.)

#5   Posted: 30 May 2007 16:17

I have always considered the Customer Service department in a manufacturing company to be the link between "inside" .... the Operations, Production, Engineering and Quality departments ... and "outside" ... the Sales and Field Service departments and the customers. We don't expect the salespeople to understand production schedules, vendor qualification, or any of the other things we have to digest to make a coherent answer for the customer. And we don't expect Operations to understand all the needs of the customer.

My fear with arrangements that put Customer Service under a part of the organization that does not directly interact with the customer is that the focus of the Customer Service department shifts from "looking out" to "looking in". It can be subtle thing that builds to the point where Sales is at odds with Customer Service when they should be working hand in hand.

But all is not lost. The challenge in such an arrangement is recognizing the pros and cons, and working to continue to be a cusotmer and sales advocate within the organization. Customer Service is always "in between" all the other functions in a company, so the creative tension is always there.

#6   Posted: 8 Jul 2007 01:12

Hi everyone,

I do support Mondie's point. Customer service should be central to the compony's entire business. In a case where it is swallowed by another deaprtment, the result is that the front-line officers will not exercise it effectively.

In a competitive world, you need a well establish customer service as a department that will look at how the company scrambles for a big market share. Evidence shaow that customer service as a department is now beeing introduced even in monoplistic cultures. Only if customer service is established as a department will the frontline officers be able to understand their role, offcourse with support from top management.

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