In a recent interview, I was asked questions about why the leaders of a company in the “C-Suite” should focus on customer service. The questions seemed to be well-thought-out and appropriate, but as I reviewed the questions and my answers, it occurred to me that they could be applied to everyone in the organization, not just the management. In other words, while the customer service vision may start in the C-Suite, everyone must own the responsibility. Here are the questions that I was asked, and my thoughts on expanding the focus to include everyone in the organization.
1. From the C-Suite, why is customer service important?
The question could be restated as: Why is customer service important? This is basic. If your company has competitors that sell the same or similar products or services, how can you set yourself apart and attract the customers? You can differentiate yourself by the way you deliver the product. And although it is the front-line employees who deliver the customer experience, shouldn’t management take the lead in defining and establishing what that customer experience should be?
2. So where do we begin to become a customer focused organization?
As I have been saying for years, it starts with the people on the inside – the employees. And that means everyone. What is happening inside the organization among the employees will ultimately be felt on the outside by the customer. To truly become customer-focused, a company must first be employee-focused by practicing internal customer service. I call it the “Employee Golden Rule” – treat the employees the way you want the customer to be treated (maybe even better). Recognize that customer service is not a department; it’s a philosophy to be embraced by everyone.
3. What can the leaders do to impact customer service?
In my response to this interview question, I noted that the leadership must define the culture and create a brand promise that focuses on customer service. However, I would also say that when it comes to customer service, everyone must be a leader. The mandate to maintain a customer service culture must come from the C-Suite, but after that, it is up to everyone, leadership included, to imbue the company with that culture and model good customer service behavior. Whether you are the CEO or an entry-level employee, if you strive to be a leader in customer service, you will gain the respect and admiration of others and they will want to emulate your actions.
When it comes to customer service, everyone must take the responsibility of a leadership role. Yes, management must define the culture and set the course, but when it comes to customer service, they must share the leading role with the entire organization. Leaders need to take part in customer service training alongside the rest of the employees and model the behavior. All eyes are on them to set the example. On the other hand, customer service offers the opportunity for anyone to step up and be a leader, no matter what his or her title in the company. Whether you work in the C-Suite or the Mail Room, you can be a leader in customer service and a role model for those around you.