Are leaders actively involved in driving the service culture in organisations? More often than not, they aren't. So what should they be doing?
Recently, I did an introductory ‘Meet and Greet’ session for a group of floor associates from a retail chain.
After the first session, I had a meeting with the vice president of human resources on how to take the programme ahead. We had a 90 minute discussion, delving deeper into their where they were now and where they would like to be, and what needed to be done to get them there.
By the end of the discussion, it was evident to us that there was a greater need for their leadership to have more involvement in service initiatives than for their floor associates to have more training.
Management felt training would help the associates, but after discussion, the VP of HR realised that the company leaders needed to get their finger on the pulse where service was concerned.
The discussion and my observations brought to light gaps in communication from outlet heads to management, and lack of awareness about what was happening in the store. Their online complaint handling process, for instance, was far from professional.
With frontline usually bearing the brunt of service delivery, it is time to see the customer experience from a different perspective. Yes, I am referring to leadership!
Are leaders truly involved in driving the service culture in organisations? If so, what are they doing about it? And if not, what should they be doing?
Leadership’s involvement plays a key role in driving the customer experience initiatives in any organisation, because they set the pace for others to maintain. A true service culture happens when all are involved and not customer-facing employees alone.
Here are a few concrete kick-off actions leaders can undertake to understand their service standards:
- Management meetings to include customer complaints in the agenda. They have to diligently review customer feedback.
- Analyse top cases and assign them to senior managers to resolve. This would give them the opportunity to have the finger on the pulse and set the pace.
- Check the number of cases closed and lessons learnt from the previous management meeting.
- Managers should make at least one customer visit every month, senior management should do one customer visit in three months and top management to visit customers every six months. I mean formal visits to their office and not social meetings at a party or event.
- Complaint resolution and customer visits by leaders to be linked to management KPIs.
- Form a task force of frontline staff to suggest recommendations to management. The suggestions should be seriously considered by management and implemented. If not implemented, give sufficient reasons and request task force to review and amend recommendations.
- Demonstrate a healthy cross-functional engagement with customers for all in the organisation to emulate.
How does this help?
- In addition to feedback from their teams, this will help leaders get factual feedback from the customer.
- It will ensure leaders work with their teams, understand what is happening and what improvement needs to be done with their processes and policies.
- It helps leaders to get closer to their teams and understand their challenges, resulting in similar reactions from frontline who will feel motivated while handling customers.
- And for the customer, it would be a breath of fresh air. Having senior management visit them would literally mean business. It would give them a very different feeling.
- For the organisation, they would be setting themselves apart from competition with a single unified focus and vision.
So, is it too much to ask leaders to devote time for the customer in their management meetings?
In fact, this should be one of the core business for management to pursue. A conscious effort from leaders to focus on service and customer experience will act as a key differentiator for the business. It would take them far ahead from the competition.
And all it needs is firm commitment and a process in place for everyone - from the chairman/chairwoman down - to follow.
This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn post.
About Gangadhar Krishna
Gangadhar Krishna is an independent author, coach, trainer and consultant in customer service and excellence. He thrives on thinking out of the box and is convinced that the most bizarre ideas always work. He recently published his illustrative business book titled ‘Delighting Customers Is’. It is a collection of well-researched one-liners that delve into the philosophy of customer service using 202 thought provoking illustrations. It is all about the nuances of delighting customers.
He owns copyrights for his theory on Service Excellence from the UAE Ministry of Economy, Abu Dhabi. The theory is also covered under the Indian Copyright Law. This is a simple yet powerful theory that can be applied to any industry.
He launched his personal portal www.delightingcustomers.com with the sole objective of helping organizations develop their business with the philosophy of ‘Sales Heaps but Service Reaps’.
He has to his credit over 90 articles on customer service released to various local dailies and magazines in UAE.
He is an assessor with Dubai Quality Awards and a passionate toastmaster.
He has initiated a voluntary training program called MYPSR - Give Time, Get Happiness, for those individuals who cannot afford such trainings nor are sent by their companies.
His 30 years’ career spans challenging experiences while serving customers in a multitude of industries such as travel, airlines, retail banking, courier services and credit management, spread over different countries as India, Australia and United Arab Emirates.