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The Customer Service Jobs of the Future

There has been much debate recently about the future of customer service and call center jobs (the future of any job, for that matter!): Who will have them? What will they require? What will they pay? What kind of advancement opportunities will they offer? These are understandable and good questions, especially given the ongoing uncertainties in the job market.

But there are some coming realities—largely overshadowed by current headlines—that organizations (and individuals) best heed. For one, the current “jobless recovery” is likely to be followed by a tightening labor market, similar to the one that occurred in the recovery of the early 1990s and, again, the early 2000s. Further, generational demographics, e.g., the aging population in much of the world, will put new pressures on available work force to improve productivity and drive innovation in service delivery.

A less-publicized trend is the changing nature of call center jobs. Customer contacts that can be defined by a series of scripts and rules (do they exist anymore?) will go to cheap labor markets (domestic or otherwise) and will (especially) continue to be automated. The call center jobs that are growing – and many predictions suggest underlying growth in these jobs will outpace the overall job market – require complex analysis, human know-how, and a good measure of empowerment. Interactions increasingly involve multiple channels, to serve customers that are connected, informed about their options and diverse in their needs and expectations. In short, these jobs will demand ever higher skills and knowledge. And yes, pay and career opportunities – though muted somewhat by current conditions – are on the rise.

A central message for leaders looking ahead is to not let predictions of a slow recovery (which may very well be the case) distract you from cultivating the skills and competencies that your organization will need. The time to upgrade tools, processes and know-how is... well, now!