Customer Service? Business Leaders Just Aren’t Listening!

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Most company directors and board members don’t have a clear understanding of what their customers want, and often ignore the views of those that do – their front line people! That’s according to a new report from The Institute Of Customer Service. The Leading By Example Report reveals that many leaders also fail to lead by example when it comes to demonstrating the skills front-line staff see as being key in delivering quality customer service.

The report shows that when asked, employees were not particularly impressed with what their senior managers did (or didn’t do!)

The findings reveal that only …

  • 51% think their CEO and board are interested in customer insight. 
  • 36% of managers think their senior executives ‘actively listen’ to customers in an effort to improve service and…
  • Less than 50% believe that senior executives understand customer needs

There is clearly a view that customer needs are not taken seriously enough by senior leaders with only 28% saying that, in their organization, a board member has responsibility for customer service. 51% also believe boardrooms ‘put profits before the delivery of a great customer experience’.

Now, clearly these are ‘perceptions’, but often, ‘perception is reality’ and in a world of crowded markets and ever increasing customer expectations, this can have significant impacts on what front-line staff do (and don’t do) when it comes to customer service!

The implication for me is that in many businesses, customer service is seen as one of those things that the ‘workers’ do, and not the senior managers. This is short sighted.

Our research suggests that in 3D Businesses the leaders…

  • Set, and are seen to set, the example – it’s not what they say, it’s what they DO… and are seen to be doing! 
  • Consciously ‘get out there’ at the front line and see what’s going on!
  • Create ‘dialogue’ with their customers – they ask questions and they listen!

So, some simple steps you could take…

  • ‘Stand in Your Own Queues’ – find out what it’s like on your ‘front line’ – ring up your own business, visit your own reception, depot or shop, go on your own website – what’s it like being a customer of your business? (Here’s a free toolkit to help you do that)
  • Get Back To The Floor – Ask Your Front Line People! What do they think about what’s working and isn’t when it comes to customers? A simple questionnaire can be a good start (Get someone else to oversee it, not you.), have one to one conversations or group discussions with your people. Why not get some pizzas in, set up a discussion group to highlight ‘key customer issues’. Note – get them to do it without you being there and then feedback the key issues!
  • Create Conversations With Your Customers – find out what they think! Lots of businesses invest a lot of time, money and effort in getting customer feedback. I also think that lots of businesses waste lots of time, money and effort in getting customer feedback. Why? They ask lots of questions, but don’t actually listen, or they listen to the answers and then do nothing about what they hear! 3D Businesses create ‘Dialogue, Not Diatribes’ with their customers – it’s a key ingredient of Characteristic #4 Forget CRM, Think MCR! Maximise Customer Relationships!

Not sure what to ask? Well, here are 3 questions to get you started…

  • Why do you buy from us? This highlights your strengths and the things you do well – some elements of which you may not be aware of. (Be careful how you phrase this – You might sound as if you’re doubting yourself if you say it wrong!)
  • What one thing do we do or don’t do that irritates or annoys you? This one speaks for itself! The key is doing something about it!
  • What one thing could we do better? Just one thing – it may highlight their priorities and key issues to help identify and develop the areas that count!

the key thing is making sure that you use the information gathered! Whatever you do, whether it’s listening to your people or your customers, the critical bit is DOING SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT YOU FIND OUT….. AND BEING SEEN TO BE DOING SO!

So, go on, ask some questions, listen to the responses and do something as a result! Show your people that customer service is critical!

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