The number of people working in the UK's customer service sector has increased threefold in the last eight years, but pay remains 34% below the UK average.
A new study by the Institute of Customer Service, published to coincide with the launch of National Customer Service Week (3 – 9 October), shows that the industry is the engine room of the service economy, employing 328,000 people or 1.5% of all employed adults, up from 98,000 in 2002. The research conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Economics and Business Research also revealed that customer service currently accounts for £5 billion paid out in wages each year, up from £1.2 billion in 2002, but the figure is forecast to rise to £6 billion by 2015. Despite its scale and importance to the UK economy, pay across the industry remains significantly below the national average, however. Jo Causon, the Institute's chief executive, said it was time for companies to recognise customer service as a true profession. “The rise in prominence of customer service over the past decade is not surprising given that almost 77% of the UK’s GDP is now service-related. However, total wages in the sector do not reflect the importance of customer service to the UK economy," she added. Average earnings were just £14,868 in 2010, only marginally above the national minimum wage of £12,334 and significantly below the national average wage of £22,568. “With rising youth unemployment and few jobs available to this year’s raft of fresh graduates, companies should highlight the opportunities for professional development and lifelong career options in customer service, to attract young talent into this fast-growing industry," Causon said. “There is arguably no more important job role than that which interacts with the customer, and if we want to provide world-class service in this country, employers have to invest more in the people that deliver for the customer.”