Why Managers Don’t Make Customer Service a Priority


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A recent study found that 93 percent of executives said customer experience was one of their top priorities. 

Saying something is a priority doesn’t necessarily make it true. Something is truly a priority if it receives time, money, and attention over other alternatives. 

It’s in these departments that many customer service managers fall short. And, when they do, it’s typically a problem caused by the executives they report to.

No Time for Service

According to a recent Forrester survey commissioned by Desk.com, executives believe the biggest challenge faced by their customer service managers is not having enough time to focus on strategic initiatives.

Look at some of the challenges the typical customer service manager faces on a daily basis:

  • Too many direct reports
  • Staffing shortages
  • Hiring and training to fix staffing shortages
  • Endless meetings
  • Escalated customer service challenges

The first three issues are fundamentally tied to a lack of budget. 

The fourth issue, endless meetings, is a product of coordinating with other departments such as operations and marketing. These departments typically don’t view customer service as their top priority because it’s not baked into their job description.

The fifth issue, escalated customer service challenges, is a by-product of the first four issues. More issues get escalated when customer service managers aren’t able to spend enough time preventing problems from occurring.

Customer service managers want to spend more time on service, but they often don’t have that luxury.

No Money for Service

Customer service gets short-changed when it comes to investment.

That’s because customer service often represents a cost to executives who are focused on trimming budgets. Many customer service managers tell me they struggle to get the money they need for adequate staffing, training, or technology investments.

Here’s an example:

A company acquired a competitor that used a different system to manage customer billing. The decision was made save a substantial amount of money by delaying the integration of the two billing systems.

Having two separate systems also caused a substantial number of billing issues.

Executives can easily determine how much money they saved by not investing in the system integration. It’s much harder to calculate the real cost of the billing issues. To do so would require someone to spend time analyzing several factors.

  • How many billing errors were caused by having two systems?
  • What was the cost of these errors?
  • What was the cost of fixing these errors (employee time, goodwill discounts, etc.)?
  • How many customers were lost due to these errors?

Customer service managers in situations like these often find it difficult to make a successful business case. The data is hard to find and they have very little time to try to find it.

The inevitable result is they can’t get executive approval for the budget they need.

No Attention to Service

There are a million things competing for a customer service manager’s attention. 

  • Endless deadlines
  • Special projects
  • An endless sea of emails and reports
  • Customer escalations
  • Employee issues such as hiring, monitoring, training, and coaching
  • Meetings (most of which are pointless)

All of this requires managers to constantly multitask. 

The real impact of multitasking is divided attention. A manager whose attention is divided amongst a million little tasks has little capacity for paying attention to customer service.

I’ve talked to countless managers who feel like they’re stretched thin, barely keeping their heads above water. They want to focus on customer service. It’s just that they don’t have the ability to focus on improving customer service right now.

They would give customer service more attention if only their executives would give them the time and budget they need to do so.

How to Prioritize Service

There are a few things managers can do despite these challenges.

The first is to set aside a special time to jump start the effort. Think of it as spring cleaning for your customer service team. Here are a few sample activities:

The second thing managers can do is tackle one small issue at a time. Set yourself up for success by only taking on as much as you can handle.

The third thing managers can do is to integrate continuous improvement into daily work as much as possible. Things tend to lose their priority when they’re treated as side projects. You have to live and breathe customer service on a daily basis if you want it to be a priority.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Having been involved with SOCAP (Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals) for years, presenting at their annual conferences, and even contributing to a book they published on the future of customer service, I’ll offer a somewhat different perspective. The customer service function is most typically regarded as a cost of doing business, rather than a profit center. This creates a mindset among service management that is tactical, defensive, and reactive; and it’s one of the key reasons customer service has so many micro-performance measures.

  2. Michael – thanks for your comment, although it sounds like your perspective is aligned with my post! I think your points are right on target.


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