There is no doubt that the closer top management is to the customer, the more successful an organization is likely to be. Customer experience has long been mooted as the next battleground where competitive advantage will be won or lost. There needs to be intentional investment in truly understanding not only our existing customers but also those who will be buying our service or product into the future. Your staff needs to understand that customer relations are an integral part of their job – not an extension of it. The ironic thing is that this is often such a neglected aspect of business and yet is one so easy to get right. The most obvious problem is often a lack of training supported by on-the-job mentoring and feedback. Lets face it – how often have you, in your customer experience, encountered a trainee / mentor where it matters – dealing with you? No often is my guess.
So often poor service is almost not the fault of the individual concerned; it is rather the fault of inadequate training – and that is hardly their fault!
Another obvious gap leading to poor customer experience is that the individual concerned does not ‘get the big picture’. They don’t display any sense of ownership for the business and therefore why go the extra mile? Such blinkered approaches, often evidenced by an easy willingness to ‘pass the buck’, are indicative of a failure to connect the dots between corporate values (they all have ‘service excellence’ in there some where!), delivery, loyal customers, word-of-mouth PR and profit. How hard can that be to connect?
Business owners often don’t take the time to teach, preach and model this and if that is the case, how can one expect one’s staff to do so? A friend of mine once witnessed a restaurant manager berate one of his staff right in front of where he was sitting enjoying his meal. On paying his bill he summoned the manager and having reminded him of his earlier outburst, and where it had taken place, simply asked him, “how do you think that made me feel as your customer?” – and off he walked. My friend hadn’t got too far when the manager, to his credit, chased him down and asked, “I’m sorry for what you witnessed back there, what would you like me to do to make it right?” My friend immediately replied, “Apologize as loudly, and as publically as you chose to reprimand your staff person” (I have always marveled at his quick thinking!). And amazingly, the manager invited my friend back to the sense of the crime, summoned the now terrified staff person, and did precisely that – apologize loudly and sincerely!
Naturally I don’t know how that played itself out over the long-term but I would like to think that any manager willing to go to those redemptive lengths, would also have learnt a valuable lesson that day – one not easily forgotten.
There are many ways to model the kind of customer service you hope your staff delivers when you are not around. A willingness to eat humble pie when necessary is one of them!