Is Customer Service the deciding factor as to which companies succeed or fail in this economic downturn?

Just received my copy of the Call Center Openings & Expansions Report from King White at Site Selection Group and for the first time I can remember there are no new builds or expansions in Canada. Nor are there any in India either for that matter.

The numbers show a dramatic slowdown in the job creation with 2,930 net new jobs created- down almost 70% from a year ago, of those 2,560 are located outside of North America. The majority of the increases occur ed in the outsource BPO sector with new centers in the Philippines and expansions at home.

2,143 jobs were displaced in 16 contact centers in US and Canada in January.

The fact that the market is tightening up isn’t a surprise to anyone. We are bombarded by horror stories in the media every time we listen to the radio, watch or read the news. What is surprising to me at least is how resilient the contact center industry is proving to be.

In January 598,000 workers in the US and 129,000 workers in Canada lost their jobs. That adds up to a staggering 727,000 people looking for work. Yet in a sector much maligned the net of hiring and firings were about break-even. That’s a lot better than the banks or automakers fared.

Now its possible that the axe just hasn’t fallen yet as job cuts work through organization and the customer facing call and contact center positions are just coming into the cross-hairs.

Or maybe organizations are recognizing that in a downturn where cash is king, getting a customer to part with their cash is becoming increasingly difficult. Good service, as infrequent as it often is may just be the key to prying open the purses and wallets of customers. Service can be a key differentiator between organizations.

In tough times we all choose between alternatives, buy this, pass on that, maybe later or not at all. In days of plenty we would have bought it all. So how will customers…you and I make decisions? I postulate that increasingly the service we receive will be viewed as a part of the purchase or transaction. When customers view the customer service experience inherent with making that purchase as a part of the buying experience and capable of increasing purchase satisfaction, then savvy companies and organizations will embrace true customer advocacy, and all of our customer service experiences will become significantly more effective, more efficient and above all more enjoyable.

Of course this may just be me looking for a silver lining…but it is a happy thought.

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