If you are a leader in a larger business or public sector organisation then you are probably not dealing with external clients on a regular basis. It is therefore easy (once you have agreed with them) to leave the policing of your customer service standards to other people. Here is the danger when you do that!
Most leaders are ‘protected’ from bad news by well meaning, junior managers who report only the good things to them. We have seen this time and time again in both the public and private sectors. If you do arrange an ‘inspection’, these are carefully choreographed to ensure you only see what they want you to see!
For me the answer is twofold, firstly there is the ‘communication’ issue to address and secondly the importance of direct ‘customer experience’.
Any true leader is one that gives their staff autonomy and space to achieve agreed tasks. They should not simply attempt to create a carbon copy of themselves. Dialogue must be free and open and yes, that word TRUST is again a vital ingredient.
I use the phrase “Respond, don’t react” a lot when I am training. A response is something positive, thought out and measured. On the other hand a reaction is often negative and with little thought. We are no longer in ancient times when it was customary to execute the bringer of bad news, but some leaders today still ‘react’ to being told bad news in a way that brings similar fear and trepidation. If you want your people to tell you the truth, then build a reputation for ‘responding’.
Television documentaries like “Back to the Floor” (where senior executives went undercover and took entry level roles within their own organisations) have been great eye openers for all leaders, not only those that took part in the series. The perception of ‘reality’ at that level, before taking part was vastly different to the real thing due to the ‘rose tinted’ messages they had been getting from their middle management teams.
Here are a few tips for senior leaders on how they can be sure to experience what their client’s experience! Some may sound obvious BUT do you do them?
- Be a customer! – Telephone in on a regular basis pretending to be a client. How long does the call take to be answered? Was the call answered according to policy? Did the call handler sound as though they genuinely cared about you?
- Have your home address and a secret private email on your company database to experience what ‘marketing’ you receive. This one can reveal some real ‘shockers’.
- Take regular unscheduled walks through your customer service offices and just listen to what you hear. If you hear good things then praise publicly and loudly. If you hear issues then report quietly to your manager before you leave.
- Take an active role in resolving major complaints and call the client yourself rather than delegate to someone junior. In my experience it is easy to ‘turn’ a complainant into a brand ‘advocate’ by handling their complaint efficiently and effectively.
- Be very clear on what constitutes unacceptable customer service & talk directly to these teams on a regular basis. Explain just why customer service is so important to your organisation?
It may be that you have a dedicated customer service ‘policing team’ and if so that is great. However if you have this team instead of doing the above, you are missing the key point! It is your DIRECT involvement as the ‘leader’ that makes the difference to customer service and this is therefore something you cannot delegate.
Head of Training
(Image courtesy of 89 Studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
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