Imagine sitting in an overcrowded medical clinic waiting room and spotting this sign on the wall, “When your number comes up, please have your symptoms ready.”
You won’t likely ever see that sign. It’s too honest. But there’s a high chance you’ll encounter that attitude. Too many organizations are inside out rather than outside in. Instead of designing their processes to flow inward from customer needs, they start with internal needs and an unspoken culture of “we will dictate to you the terms upon which you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing our service.”
The leader of a rapidly growing company asked us to help “fine tune” their service delivery. He declared that his was truly a customer-oriented company. “After all,” he said, “we’re in the service industry.” He felt customer service was well ingrained throughout his operation. But he agreed to “indulge” us as we studied the organization to see if that was truly the case.
What we found was typical of leaders who assume that service/quality can be ordered up like a room service breakfast. The company featured service in their marketing with convincing and clever branding, they had a customer service department, and they provided extensive service training to frontline staff. When we assessed their operational systems and processes, we found that a customer-orientation was certainly conspicuous in their planning, hiring, promoting, leadership development, and performance evaluations. But it was conspicuous by its absence.
Who’s Responsible for Customer Service?
If you have frontline service providers delivering customer service, what’s the rest of your organization doing?
The very existence of most organizations depends on customers willing to continue paying for its products and services. So, customer service is everyone’s responsibility. A deep ethic of “If you’re not serving customers directly, you need to serve those who are” must pervade the organization.
Leaders with deep servant leadership or service ethic lead organizations with consistently high service levels. They serve the servers.
This sign on the wall of struggling diner points to a root cause of poor customer service:
Customers who feel our servers are rude should see the manager.