The Leadership Approach to Customer Service

Helping Employees Be Successful in Taking Care of Customers

In the last blog post I talked about the importance of customer service and the fact that many businesses seem to have forgotten that it’s customers that make the business possible – and profitable. In fact, in a customer-driven marketplace and stiff competition, excellent customer service often serves as a major differentiator between one company and the next. Sometimes it’s the little extras, the sprinkles on the cupcake, which drive both consumer choice and B2B vendor selection.

customer service2Many companies only view customer service through the lens of customer complaints, and if you take this approach, it’s no surprise to find some resentment towards customers! But you also miss the long-term benefits of providing good customer service – loyal customers, better business growth potential, satisfied shareholders.

Think global, act local. Customer service is the job of every employee, no matter what their duties, and your customer service strategy needs to draw upon the vision for the company. Your role as leader means that you’re constantly communicating that vision, so that everyone understands how customer service reflects and supports the vision.

To create optimum customer service, all contact between your company and a customer or potential customer should be a positive experience for the customer. Everyone in your organization needs to be thinking about customer satisfaction. Are the products being manufactured in a way that will make the customer happy? Is the delivery being scheduled to meet customer requirements?

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, who has elevated customer service in the retail industry to an art form, takes an interesting approach in making customer service central to the Zappos vision. “Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.”

Training matters. Your public-facing employees have the most direct client contact, and need formal training in order to be most successful in their customer service efforts. Even the nicest and kindest of employees isn’t automatically going to know how to respond to unhappy customers in a way that soothes the customer without making promises that can’t be kept.

Other customers will be full of questions. Customer service representatives need to have enough knowledge of the products to answer most questions and/or know where to go for more detailed or technical answers. Customers will appreciate the efforts in finding them the right answer.

Your work matters. Motivation is important – employees need to know that their work matters and that their efforts are paying off. Accountability can be part of the motivation; many companies tie compensation to the delivery of good customer service. (This references back to the importance of implementing and monitoring the crucial metrics you use to track progress towards objectives.)

And it doesn’t always have to be about dollars. Studies show most employees are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. Good leaders look for ways to “catch” an employee doing something right! Happy and engaged employees are better advocates for your brand.

Finally, I think as leaders we can all revisit the common courtesies we were taught growing up. “Please,” “Thank You,” and “Excuse Me” can go a long way to diffuse many customer service challenges. These three little phrases that used to be so common in our daily lives have somehow become lost along the way.

If we expect to improve our levels of customer service in business, making a conscious effort to get “back to basics” in all areas of life is a good place to start. And that means treating people – co-workers, employees, customers – the way we want to be treated. Leaders lead.