Managers – Own Your Customer Service

In nearly every instance of training customer service over the years, it has always been a company-wide effort and shared responsibility that “we all provide the service to our customers” and that no one individual is solely responsible.  And while I agree with this principle, I have started to see where managers could make a difference if they became more than just one of the team members.

To fully understand this principle that managers need to own the customer service experience, you need only become a customer and observe where the manager is when poor service is available.  Managers that observe their surroundings, watch employees, talk with them about behaviors that don’t align with good service are taking ownership of the service experience.

While many like to blame the younger generation for the lack of good customer service, I must remind everyone that none of us was born with a customer service gene.  We were not taught customer service in school or at home, so it becomes learned behavior in the workplace.  When employees are allowed to talk to each other in front of customers about unrelated to work topics, or are talking on the phone, or cannot smile or thank you for anything, I blame the manager.

We have a new community market in our town that opened several months ago with a combination of brand new employees and helpers from other locations.  During the Grand Opening weeks, service levels were high, but after the focus was off and the experienced people left the true reality came into view.  This store has a director level manager overseeing everything, and each department has a manager.  It is almost an eerie feeling as you shop because the level of service runs hot and cold all under the same roof.

The bakery, deli, meat counter and produce sections seem to have the nicest people and  I have never felt that their attention was on something other than the customer.  I felt important and never saw an upset customer.  Now the dairy, bulk and dry goods have a few people around, but they seem so focused on what they need to get done, they can’t even find the energy to help you find something.  When asked they will help, but not a real proactive approach.

Then we get to experience a real disconnect from the service experience when we check out.  They have a lot of employees working the registers, and it is rare to see the same person which means a lot of minimal part-time hours spread among a lot people.  I’ve found two super nice people, but the rest are stuck up and into getting you out the door with minimal interaction.  They are often chatting with each other about other employees (gossip) and snippy with customers.  I met the department manager one day when I observed the same behaviors as she was talking with two of her line supervisors.

My guess is the store director has left each department to figure out the customer experience, otherwise they would all be the same good or bad.  The director should be monitoring all employee behaviors and holding the department managers accountable.  The cashiers are the last point of contact in this store before the customer leaves, and lately each time I exit I ask myself why I should come back.

All Managers need to own the customer service experience.  It is time for every manager to step up to the plate and do your job!

Is Leadership Training Necessary?

Quickly grab a paper and write down the name of every manager you have ever had.  This usually works faster if you start at the beginning and work forward, but the order of the names is not important.  Once you have  your list, circle the names of anyone you would work for again without thinking twice.  That didn’t take long did it?

Sadly if you are like a lot of people who have been working awhile, the list is long but the circles are far and few between.  Each time you hesitated about circling a name there was some incident, or maybe several, that popped up in your mind that prevented you from wanting to work for that person again without thinking it through.

Is Leadership Training Necessary?  That question was asked of me recently and before I said anything, I replied back with my own question.  What would make you ask that?  After a long pause, this person was just testing to see if I was the kind of trainer that thought every skill out there had to be trained.

The truth is that within a particular company it is quite possible that leadership training would not be necessary because people already possess and are using the skills.  I’d love to meet this company someday, but all kidding aside it is possible.

Yet if we exam the list we just created and realize how many of our past managers lacked the basic skills to create working environments we would run back to, tells me that 99% of all companies need leadership development.  They also need reinforcement and accountability as part of that learning process too.

If your company does not provide leadership training, tell us why it is unnecessary, or why you think they should train leadership skills immediately.

Endorsements are Good for Us

There isn’t a week goes by that someone in my LinkedIn network doesn’t endorse my skills on my profile list, or as of lately come up with a new skill I had not previously thought of.  It may be only a second or two of recognition, but it makes me feel valuable to that person.

As any great manager will tell you, recognition is the most powerful and lasting form of motivation, and cost very little cash and mostly effort.  Somewhere along the way, the LinkedIn endorsement process reminds us of the value that a person played in our world, and in a very easy process allows us to demonstrate our appreciation.

Now I am not someone who endorses everything someone says they can do.  I believe I am providing zero benefit if I were to endorse a skill I am clueless if it fits them or not.  I’m also kind of tough and will not endorse a skill if I don’t believe it exists.  Many past people I’ve worked with love to list the skills of “management” and “leadership” and gee I’m sorry but they never exhibited those qualities in my presence, and so I pass on clicking that skill.

Endorsements might sound like a small thing, but to the receiver it is sometimes the only validation they will ever get.  So my challenge for you this week is to seek out people in your network that you have worked with and pull up their profile.  Endorse the skills you can, pass on those you can’t and write in anything you feel strong about and build someone up.

Two-Way Communication

I was watching a commentator last week suggest that the same etiquette afforded to returning phone calls and emails should be observed by returning text messages you receive.  I nearly choked at the assumption that he was suggesting that people return phone calls and emails, and thus should have the same respect for text messages.

While the goal of good communication is one that operates both ways, as a general rule in business we don’t return emails and phone calls quickly unless they are from the boss.  Peers, staff and external people are left to wonder if their messages have been received and read.  This lack of respect for people’s time by a quick reply of “got it, busy, back to you in a day” just goes unanswered so others are left to follow-up several times.

I agree that all communications need to be answered if they are specific to us.  General SPAM, or computer generated calls can go unanswered.  But when someone is asking you for something, or even pitching you something you don’t need, want or will ever use, take a few seconds and answer them.

My clients and friends have learned that I return all communications rather quickly, so they rarely have to follow-up.  And if I don’t it means that technology failed us and I had no idea they were trying to reach me.  Aside from the fact that this is a respectful way to treat people I work with, I practice the Golden Rule in hopes others will do the same for me.