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!