Issue 1 | May 2013

From Brad

Welcome to the first issue of The Edge of Service. You are receiving this new newsletter as a friend or colleague, or because we've connected or interacted on service topics. If you choose, you can unsubscribe by clicking unsubscribe. This is a conversation about the organizations, people, strategies, and technologies pushing the limits of, and enjoying the returns from, delivering great service.

I've had many clients and friends in the industry request that I share—candidly, simply—what I'm "seeing out there." Massive change is happening in service delivery, just as it is in manufacturing, fulfillment, design, sourcing and every other aspect of serving customers. Given the severity and abruptness of those changes, whole new industries are emerging in years, not decades, and legacy organizations are either restructuring or dying.

This can be a very disorienting time. If you are an executive trying to maintain your base of business, but at the same time, make sense of all the newness rushing at you, it's unsettling. Many are asking, "Who can I trust? Where do I make my service investments? What strategies and technologies will win? What does this mean to my existing base?" It's hard to separate the signal from the noise.

Yet, once we admit that fundamental change is happening, we can be more grounded about it. The Edge of Service is designed to be a high-fidelity conversation that looks for the signal versus the noise. There's unprecedented opportunity to boost customer relationships and business results!

So—this newsletter was largely your idea. Thank you, and I hope the few minutes it takes to read will be informative and thought-provoking.

Warm Regards,

Brad Cleveland

Is Russia a Service Bellwether?

I recently returned home from Russia, where I delivered a keynote and seminar (through simultaneous translation) on service trends and management at CCWF13 in Moscow. This was my first time working in Russia and, having had opportunity to work in 60 or so other countries over the years, it was high on my to-do list.

Photo: Brad's Keynote in Moscow

Russia is a fascinating country of contrasts. Moscow recently surpassed Tokyo as the most expensive city (my basic room at the business hotel hosting the conference ran around US$700/night), and evident and opulent wealth (think black caviar, upscale shops with eye-popping prices, and bars that boast vodka sommeliers) contrasts with drabber remnants of the former Soviet era. The economy continues to undergo significant change, transitioning from one that was centrally planned and isolated to a more market-based and globally integrated approach.

Photo: Ice Rink in Red Square to Promote 2014 Olympics

Similarly, the service sector is going through a dramatic, turbulent transition. Historically, Russia has not been known for its service culture. Amazing literature, science, Olympic athletes, yes. Service, not so much. The usual (though not always accurate) caricature is surly and impersonal. Which makes what is happening so significant. Growth in the contact center profession is estimated to exceed 30%, even as the economy—heavily dependent on commodity exports—continues to reel from the global economic crisis. The attendees of my all-day seminar—primarily VPs of service and Directors of call centers—were as engaged and forward-thinking as any group I've worked with. (Several were from a startup online bank that, in six years, has grown to an operation of several thousand call center agents.) Many are handling a full range of customer communication channels: social, mobile, and text, in addition to phone.

But it was the overall mindset of this small sample of leaders that made such an impact. Here's how a VP of Customer Service put it in one of our discussions: "Delivering the very best service, service that differentiates, is the mandate from our organization's leaders. No, we can't control the world economy. Even our products get replicated so quickly. But service—that is the key to standing out, the key to our future. " It was one of those chill-up-the-spine moments when I was reminded of how great it is to be part of the service profession.

How exciting our profession promises to be in the days ahead!

Recent blogs:


Mobile customer service is poised to develop rapidly in coming months. Here are some stats, courtesy of ICMI research:

  • 25% of companies currently have a mobile customer service strategy in place. However, 33% are in the planning stages.
  • What are the primary reasons your company is motivated to implement a mobile customer service strategy?
    • Improving customer satisfaction
    • 52%
    • Increasing customer loyalty
    • 50%
    • Lower costs
    • 30%
    • Customers asking for mobile support
    • 28%
    • Better experience for mobile customers
    • 26%

Source: ICMI 2013 Report on Mobile Customer Service Strategy


This month, put together a small but representative cross-functional team, get away from the hubbub for an hour, and brainstorm some questions:

  1. Where are you and your organization in identifying and harnessing the deep changes reshaping customer interaction? (Some of the topics you might discuss include capabilities such as search, smartphones, mobile, social, instant messaging, et al.; how customer expectations are evolving; and, how well your organization is positioned for changes you anticipate.)
  2. What developments (internal and external) do you believe will have the biggest impact on your organization and customers in coming months?
  3. Are there wide differences in perspective (e.g., of priorities and focus) across your team and the broader organization?
  4. What steps can you take now to further the priorities, initiatives, and communication needed to evolve your organization's service delivery?


ACCE, the contact center industry's largest and most influential conference, is celebrating its 10th year, May 13-16, Seattle.

Recently published books:

About Brad

Brad has devoted his career to maximizing the value of customer-facing services. As a speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, and president/CEO, he has seen change from many perspectives and has a deep understanding of the critical importance of customer service delivery to an organization's success. He has worked across 45 states and in 60 countries, and has been privileged to assist in the evolution of service delivery for clients such as American Express, Apple, Coca-Cola, USAA, and others, as well as for governments across the globe. Brad serves as a senior advisor to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), and is an in-demand speaker and consultant.

To inquire about consulting or speaking, connect through any of the channels below.

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© 2013 Brad Cleveland   All Rights Reserved