• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience

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Bold or Boring: What Do Job Titles Tell Your Customers?

Let’s talk about job titles.  I recently saw a question on one of the social media boards asking what is a good title for customer service reps whose primary job would be representing the customer to the rest of the organization.  The question wasn’t clear as to whether the role was more a sales focus such as an account manager or a more traditional customer service role.  Nonetheless, it got me thinking.

There were a number of responses like Client Representative, Strategic Client Representative (I guess because it’s always good to suggest that your organization is ‘Strategic’), Consumer Liaison and, Consumer Experience Consultant.  Then there were the ‘Manager’ suggestions – Consumer Account Manager, Customer Account Manager and, Client Account Manager.  And then of course, everyone these days is a ‘Specialist’ – Client Care Specialist and Client Advocate Specialist was also suggested.

C’mon, really?  Frankly, these are all boring, long-winded titles lacking in passion and imagination.  There, I’ve said it.  Just like the tired ‘Customer Service Representative,’ ‘Account Manager’ and ‘Account Executive.’  I know there’s a certain amount of comfort and shared understanding by using a traditional title but why?  Why not shake things up a bit?  If you’re the CEO or Customer Care leader of a small to mid-sized organization, it will likely be easier to make a bold change.  However, even larger organizations should consider marching to a better drum.

Be Bold and Passionate

With customer-facing roles, you have the opportunity to convey your organization’s commitment to customer experience through the titles you choose for the associates who have the most customer contact.  You also send a message to applicants, shareholders and other associates about just how serious your organization is with ‘wowing’ your customers.  I hear all the time, “We’re a customer-centric organization…” or “… we are customer-focused..” and yet, the same company will direct their customers to contact a Customer Service or Customer Care “Representative” – boring, snore, I’m bored.  If I want to be ‘represented,’ I’ll call an attorney.  Why not dazzle your customers and infuse your organization with excitement and enthusiasm for customer service?

Before You Venture Into the Light

Leave your titles in the realm of safety and be like everyone else or, infuse some passion into your company.  I say, be bold!  But first, a few considerations:

Your HR folks might say it can’t be done.  They might say, “We need to stick with ‘Customer Service Representative” or our job search engines won’t work, etc., etc.  It may take some finagling to get special titles to work well with your HR department.  Don’t let that stop your drive to be bold and your passion for customers!  Help HR to deal with the change-over.

Second, communication is key.  External customer-facing titles are important, not only in what they say to the rest of your organization internally but more important, what message they convey to your customers, prospects, vendors, partners and shareholders.  Some titles/roles are buried in organizations without a view to the customer.  External –facing is a big consideration.  That’s why I like “Customer Care” more than I like “Customer Service.”  If you decide to change existing titles, be sure to launch the change with a great communication plan, internally as well as externally, explaining exactly why you’re making the change and what it means to your organization.

Also, any role with marching orders to be a “voice of the customer” is a very important role in every organization.  The people in those roles need to be passionate about their mission.  The title should be relentless in reminding the incumbents what that mission is.  As a customer care leader, both you and they need to walk-the-walk.

Finally, I think the fewest number of words that convey the strongest message is the best approach for job titles – or any communication for that matter.  So something like “Customer Service Specialist” is not only old, it is bores-ville.  Representative, Manager and Specialist are all ubiquitous (everyone is a Specialist!) – So, decide how out front you want to be and take the plunge.

Good, Better, Best – What’s your favorite?

My favorite titles are, in this order (and if you like the 3-word titles better, you can toss in the word Service or Care):

Customer (Service/Care) Evangelist

Customer (Service/Care) Champion

Customer (Service/Care) Advocate

Poking around the web, I found the following definitions:

Evangelist – spiritual leader, zealous advocate, enthusiastic advocate, revivalist.

Champion – fights for a cause, an ace, dazzlingly skilled in any field, a winner.

Advocate  – pleads for a cause, argues on behalf of, defends.

Right off the bat, I’m least crazy about “Advocate.”  An advocate sounds to me like, “I’m going to argue your case.  We could win. We could lose.  Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.”  It just doesn’t sound enthusiastic enough, like there’s only a 50-50 chance I’m going to be elated or impressed by the outcome.  If I’m your customer, I want someone stronger than an advocate on my side!  That said, if you exist at the epicenter of conservatism, Advocate is far better than Representative.

“Evangelist” is clearly the strongest word.  It’s an unrelenting advocate who will not quit until “we win.”  Evangelist also sends the message to the rest of the organization – “Make no mistake; I’m here on behalf of the customer.”  An evangelist will preach his/her beliefs about customer experience excellence until all others are converted.  Customer Evangelist.  It’s clear, concise and passionate.  When I call a company, I want to talk to a Customer Evangelist.  I want an Evangelist on my side, listening to my issue and solving my problem.

Now, the word evangelist may offend purists who feel it is a slight to our spiritual brethren.  If that is a concern, go with Customer Champion.  “Champion” has nearly all the passion with much less of the controversy.  Either way, put in writing the reasons why you selected the final title you choose so that your organization and your customers can be clear about your passion and your mission.

Maybe You Can’t Turn Your Ship

Okay, so maybe your organization isn’t ready for such daring changes.  Don’t be discouraged.  If you’re a new organization, creating new roles and titles – seize the opportunity to forge your own path and choose titles that have vision and imagination.  If your organization is well-established, it may take more time to affect change to old, stodgy job titles but that makes it all the more worthwhile.  After all, we can’t all be Imagineers – but who wouldn’t want to be one?

I’d love to hear your favorite job titles and – Good luck!

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