As an executive in any organization that provides customer service, the worst possible message that you can receive is that “suddenly” a customer is leaving due to poor customer service, or that they’re dissatisfied to the point that they’re going to explore their options with your competitors. In these types of scenarios, you have either lost or are well on the way to losing the customer and the associated revenue.
When this type of event occurs, it can usually be traced back to several simple reasons. It may be that you have lost all relevant contact and relationship with the customer at all levels. Another common occurrence is that somebody in the organization understands that there is an issue and discontent but does not adequately communicate this fact. Sometimes the executives are so busy running the company that they neglect their relationships with customers, or they don’t understand what is important to customers to meet their business goals. There are also cases where executive management’s involvement in customer service is inconsistent or shallow, which makes the relationship ineffective when leadership and action are required to meet the customer’s critical needs.
Several other examples come to mind that I have seen throughout the years at different companies. They are commonsense items and tasks that are so simple on the surface, but which often seem to fall through the cracks. For instance, you have a customer call list or schedule for reaching out to customers; however, it loses its priority and the calls don’t get made. Sometimes there is the executive mentality that “my people” are talking to the customer base and if any issues pop up, I can just swoop in and address the situation in real time. Or there is a danger that the calls become “stale” and the content gets rehashed so that you never get to the part of the discussion about their real concerns or what they need from you.
Model Appropriate Behaviors
What is it that gives us, the executives, the best chance for success? It has been my experience that executives are expected to set the example in modeling excellent customer service behaviors. This should be part of the DNA of the company from the CEO on down.
Modeling the appropriate behavior includes leading the teams in developing the relationships with our customers and ensuring that multiple people at various levels of the organization are engaged and are reaching out to customers at a regular cadence agreed to by the customer. The customer will tell you how and when they prefer to communicate and engage if you ask them.
In addition to everything else, the most important thing we can do is have the courage to talk candidly and openly about concerns and issues that arise which can adversely affect the customer relationship, as well as how your organization needs to improve to meet the customer’s business needs and expectations. This includes having a system for gathering and carefully reviewing unfiltered customer feedback. We want the unfettered truth in how we are doing.
Be Accountable to Your Customers
I hope that you take away this from this article that, in our world, there is no substitute for great customer service. As executives and leaders, we should expect to be held accountable by our customers and our own organizations to provide it as a non-negotiable price of entry for doing business.
We need to be being willing to invest in the work required to provide great customer service and be prepared to model it and train it into our teams. The stakes and consequences to a company’s reputation or revenue are too high when we fail to meet our customer service expectations from our clients.
How do I make this actionable for me? I regularly review how I’m doing in providing customer service. I check in regularly with my customers and teams to ensure that I’m meeting expectations all around. Let’s not kid ourselves here. In review, I always find areas for improvement and things that I need to get better at if I want to continue to grow in this area.
If you are doing the positive things and work required as well (and I am sure many of you are), keep up the hard work and serve up that great customer service with pride. If there is room for improvement, ask yourself what you can do to get more engaged in the relationship with your customers so that you and your company can better serve them and meet their expectations and business needs!