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March 26, 2017

Is it time to flip Customer Service on its side? – along with Marketing, Sales, Product, etc…

Inception: Flipping Customer Service on it's sideBy michaelpace on february 15, 2012

I am not sure who originally designed how organizations should be aligned. Maybe it was the armies of the past, the mafia or some random Joe who gets no credit for how 99% of businesses are structured today. There is a Marketing Department, Sales, Customer Service, Product, IT, Human Resources, Accounting and each have their own little silos of metrics and goals. Great companies typically have a global vision, and each of the departments work together to develop an integrated strategy to deliver the vision and, more specifically, yearly goals. Each department outlines initiatives that have positive and negative impacts to budgets. They eventually get approval and proceed to execute. But what are the goals they are executing against? The goals that relate only to each department. The hope is, magically, the sum of the parts will add up to corporate goals. So Marketing starts executing on their acquisition and loyalty strategies. Sales works on their acquisition goals. Product may lead the pack or follow Marketing and Sales lead. And Customer Service takes all the flow down and tries to deliver something that more often than not, looks like adequate to good customer service.

This methodology has been in place for more than 100 years, so it obviously works well. And I am just some poor customer service blogging schmuck from Massachusetts. But why do we align this way? Why do we accept it? Skill set? Competencies? Scalability? Mentorship? Obviously, it is not to deliver a common goal. Maybe it is time to realign (yes, before the apocalypse of 2012). What if we flipped everything on its side, and aligned by organizational goals? (horizontal mambo baby!)

R & R Department (Retention and Referral)

This department is purely focused on keeping customers and making it easy for them to recommend your product, service or brand. If in some parallel universe someone asked you to deliver on goals, as stated above, would you really align by historical standards? Probably not, you might organize as follows:


  • Focused on maintaining communication and relationships with current customers
  • Developing loyalty programs
  • Incentives to deliver referrals
  • Communications to improve Average Revenue Per Unit or Customer
  • Communicating and partnering with other R & R areas to act as 1 unit


  • Delivering solutions to know bugs, enhancements and issues
  • End recipient of Voice of the Customer (VoC) program
  • Communicating and partnering with other R & R areas to act as 1 unit

Customer Service:

  • Act as the primary point of contact for customers to interact with the organization
  • Execute on retention, loyalty and referral strategies
  • Serve the customer
  • Cross sell value
  • Community Management
  • Be the primary internal resource to additions to the Voice of the Customer program


  • Accountable for established relationship management, specifically in B2B sales

Acquisition Department

The Acquisition Department is purely focused on the acquisition of new customers. This department doesn’t look too much different than today, since acquisition for some odd reason typically has priority over Retention and Average Revenue Per Customer – even though 5 billion studies prove it cost considerably less to retain a customer than to acquire.

Actually, I don’t need to go over the following areas again. Just take what they do today, and remove the stated above responsibilities.

Broader infrastructure departments (IT, HR, G&A, etc…) would continue with Business As Usual, however they may want to align their resources to specific departments (R&R, Acquisition & General)


Now because you have “dis”organized, you will need to fill the potential gaps in skill set and competency development, leveraging scale and competing resources. Circle of Excellence teams can provide the forums for both the skill development and communication. In my own humble opinion, I would rather matrix these responsibilities than to matrix goals.

There are a lot of ways we work that exist only because that is how it’s been done for 100 years or 10 years (don’t get me started today on Net Promoter Scoring), but that doesn’t mean we need to continue or not try different ways to get things done. Even something as predictable as how an organization is aligned should be subject to questioning and asking the question of why do we do this?

Is anyone actually organized this way?

What are the other possibilities with this scenario?

Am I a little crazy?

Image credit: Warner Bros.

About mpace101


  1. 5 Comments

    Mike — For starters, you are more than a little crazy, but that has no bearing on the post. I think that anything that works to bust open the silos in a corporation is a good thing. As a communications guy, that’s been a pet peeve of mine for years. I like the “R n R” idea and there are several more discrete elements that can go in there — I’m thinking training and education most immediately. At a certain point, some companies may do more than just make and sell product — or do things that may not immediately( key word: “immediately”) contribute to revenue, cashflow, net profit, ARPU etc. but do help condition the business environemnt . You’re looking at things like corprorate strategy; internal leadership development; industry, government and community participation, global reach, and finance.

    Thanks and I enjoyed the post.

  2. 5 Comments

    “This methodology has been in place for more than 100 years, so it obviously works well.”

    With all due respect, many would say it doesn’t, in fact, work well. As evidenced by the state of the economy, the many, many unhappy people receiving poor service…and the thousands – nay, even millions telling sad, bad stories online of their experiences with companies large and small, consumer and B2B.

    I’d agree it needs to AT LEAST be turned on its side. Then, shaken, rattled and rolled. EVERYONE is responsible for marketing. EVERYONE is responsible for customer service. Start with that culture. Hire people that believe it. Go from there.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. (And, no you’re not a little crazy. 🙂


      Thank you Mary for the comments. I do wonder if an existing organization could pull off the mashup. The change management alone would scare off most companies, not to mention Human Resources. I am in 100% agreement regarding culture; everything starts with culture (for good or bad). PS – got a culture post brewing, so stay tuned.


  3. 5 Comments


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