March 12, 2015

What is bad customer service really about?

Premise: If you don’t bleed for your employees, don’t expect them to bleed for your customers

Many organisations are struggling and failing to get to grips with falling customer service standards within their ranks.

They typically seek out customer services training, start another customer relationship management programme and try and force-feed their employees ‘the official customer services manual’.

In my opinion, customer service excellence is not an employee problem, but rather a culture disconnect and leadership failure.

Culture Disconnect

Let’s argue the culture disconnect. Most companies don’t have a culture of service excellence because they put profits before customers. They’re trying to please shareholders and not customers. They may even have a customer service policy or programme running under the auspices of their marketing department.

But, this programme normally has the same impact as a tick on an elephant. Zero.

And, customers are not fooled. They know exactly when a company is paying lip service to ‘customer service’. They know that most customer services initiatives have the intention of getting and not giving. They know that customer service is not part of the company’s DNA.

But, if customers came across a company like Zappos, the online shoe and clothing giant, then they’d feel the love.

When it was just an online shoe company, Zappos expressed its customer services philosophy thus: “We are a service company that happens to sell shoes”.

Zappos believes in customer service, front and centre and every employee that works there is a customer service evangelist.

How does your service culture stack up to Zappos?

Leadership Failure

Let’s look at leadership failure. Show me a customer service-deficient employee and I’ll show you his or her careless leader.

The problem that most leaders and managers face is that they are confused as to who is their customer. The smart one’s know that their customers are their employees and that it is their job to care for and grow them.

Take this to the bank. Once employees feel appreciated, they’ll appreciate your customers. If there is a lack of appreciation by leaders, employees will act up and won’t appreciate customers.

Here’s the thing. Employees judge their leaders on their intention … not on what they say but rather on what they actually do.

If your leadership philosophy is one of ‘lead from the back’ and send missives from behind closed doors, then, of course customer service (amongst other things) will go out of the window.

Do you bleed with your employees?

As a leader, when last have you stayed late and supported your staff that had to run an extra shift to ship your product? When last did you buy a meal for those that had to go home late? When last did you show appreciation and actually say, ‘thank you, job well done’?

Do you fight with, and for your team, or do you let them do all the fighting? Have you got their back?

Let’s take Alexander the Great as an example.

In India, after years on campaign, Alexander’s men threatened to mutiny. Alexander called an assembly and stepped forth and stripped naked.

“These scars on my body were got for you, my brothers. Every wound, as you see, is in front. Let that man stand forth from your ranks who has bled more than I, or endured more than I for your sake. Show him to me, and I will yield to your weariness and go home.” Not one man came forward. Instead a great cheer arose from the army. – The Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield

If your leadership is not bleeding for your employees then don’t expect your employees to bleed for your customer.

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