Effective Customer Service Leadership
Developing effective customer service leadership – leadership that coaxes great behaviors and performance from your customer-facing employees – is a key to creating a successful customer experience. Micah Solomon, a customer service consultant, recently wrote an article on Forbes on how to transform the behavior of customer facing employees. A summary of that article is below:
Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling by hiring employees with the right potential, you also need a specific leadership mindset and methodology to bring out that potential fully. Let’s take a look at what’s involved and how you get this done.
Let’s look at two contrasting waiters/waitresses. These types will be familiar to pretty much anyone who has ever had a meal in a restaurant.
Waiter/Waitress #1: Highly skilled, never dropping a tray, never reaching across you, and brings out all the food accurately to his section. However, he or she is also immensely skilled at ignoring any and all gestures and glances from anyone trying to get his or her attention who’s outside the assigned section or even who’s within his or her section but interfering with the order in which he or she was planning to go about his or her tasks.
Waiter/Waitress #2: Equally skilled, but this one’s a master of using his or her peripheral vision, and even peripheral hearing, to jump to the assistance of any guest anywhere in the dining room – in or outside his or her own section – who needs attention, who has dropped a fork, who has a question….
What makes the difference?
Purpose vs. Function
Let’s assume your hiring process ensured that both waiters come to you with equal natural levels of empathy. The difference in their performances is due to one simple factor: one waiter/waitress knows and understands his or her purpose in your organization, and the other one doesn’t.
Every employee has a job function, and a purpose in (and of) the organization. The function is what’s written, in detail, on the employee’s job description.
An employee’s purpose is something different. The purpose is the reason you’re doing all those technical things, and sometimes stepping out of your technical role to do whatever it takes. A purpose for a waiter/waitress, and for everyone else working in food service or hospitality? Something along the lines of “you’re here to provide a pleasant, safe, and memorable experience for our guests.”
Get this purpose across right away, starting with orientation, and you’l have to deal with fewer cases of employees who have mysteriously lost their peripheral vision. You’ll have people competing to go the extra mile. Because they’ll understand, that this is what they’re paid for.
Of course, it’s not quite that easy.
There’s certainly more to coaxing the most out of your employees than repeating a mantra over and over. But it’s a very good place to start.
What else helps?
- Reinforcement: Daily if possible, weekly if not. Hold a brief (5-10 minute) meeting where you reinforce your company purpose and discuss ways to achieve it.
- Positive Peer Pressure: We think of peer pressure as something negative, by and large. Kids don’t decide to light a stick of tobacco on their own; they see other kids do it first. But peer pressure can be a powerful force for good as well. It’s the reason Disney parks are so famously spotless: You see your peers picking up stray trash, so you do it as well.
- Standards: Everything that is done on a regular basis in a company is worth developing standards for: answering the phone, replying by email, running a credit card charge, opening a service ticket, whatever it is. But you need to design these standards in a way that explains the reason for the standard and makes clear when it may make sense to deviate from it. Otherwise you’ll have standards complied with in a robotic way by embittered and ultimately sabotaging employees.
- Employee Empowerment: This goes hand in hand with standards. Employees need to be empowered to do what’s right for their guests. Period. They can’t be nickled and dimed to death for what they didn’t get done because they were tied up doing what’s right. They’re late coming back from their lunch break because they were jump-starting a guest’s car in the parking lot? This is something to celebrate, not something to be disciplined for.
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