Customer Service Starts at the Top


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All customer service starts at the top. It’s a cultural thing. To have great customer service, you have to have respect for your customers. Everyone in the company has to respect the customer not just the customer service people.

Look, it’s easy to pass everything along to the customer service people. (By the way, when I say customer service people I also mean inside sales people because I have found that in our industry, these terms are pretty much interchangeable). So, for the record here, if a company wants to have great customer service, everyone in the company—the owner, the president, the sales manager, the plating supervisor, the maintenance person, the people in shipping, and the customer service person—must be completely focused on the customer. Everyone must live, eat, and breathe customer service. Everyone should be staying up nights trying to figure out how to deliver the best possible customer experience on the market today, and the company leader should be personally leading that charge.

Remember that when customers judge how you treat them, you are not only competing against other board shops. You are also competing against the best customer service companies in the world, including Disney, L.L. Bean, Tiffany’s and Nordstrom’s. That’s a lot of pressure!

Yes, great customer service comes from the top and filters all the way through the organization. But please be careful, because that sword cuts both ways. As the leader of a company, you have to make sure that at no time will you ever bad-mouth a customer. If you get angry or frustrated with a customer, or if you just don’t get along with a customer, you never let it show. You never let anyone in your organization hear you criticize a customer. The fact is that anything that comes out of your mouth is multiplied tenfold when it hits the troops. If you are a company president and you publicly knock a customer, you are literally yelling to your people that they now have permission to knock that customer as well. You will have set that example and once that happens, there is almost no turning back.

Have you ever said something like this?

My sales people are too close to their customers. They need to be reminded of who they work for.

Or this:

Look, I don’t care what the customer wants. This is the way we do it here; this is our policy.

Or this:

So what if we’re late? Everybody is late once in a while. We’re a board shop, and board shops screw up once in a while, so they are just going to have to understand that.

Man, I hope you have never said any of these things or anything that even sounds like this. But if you have, then you better rethink your role in the organization because you are sending a terrible message to everyone who works in your company, particularly those who are working on the front lines: your customer service and sales people.

The point here is that you can come up with all kinds of great ways to deliver solid customer service and you can teach them to your customer service people until you’re blue in the face, but if the rest of the organization doesn’t buy into it, you are wasting your time.

True company leaders lead the charge for great customer service. They monitor what their people are saying, making sure that they are always positive about their customers. They lead discussions and brainstorming sessions to find newer and better ways to “WOW!” their customers. When there is an issue with a customer, a problem to overcome, the true leader will always take the high road and do what is best for the customer and do it loudly so that everyone in the organization gets the message and completely understand that this is a great customer service company.

We’ve been talking about the president of the company, but this kind of positive customer service modeling behavior has to permeate throughout the entire management team, from directors to general managers to supervisors and leads. Everyone has to bring the customer to the table, and make sure that the people who work for them completely understand that there is no skimping when it comes to respecting the customer. The customer is king and the customer is the one who pays bills; and without customers there would be no business, no jobs, and no company. It’s as simple as that.

In short, everyone in the company works in customer service. Everyone in the company has to have the customer foremost in their minds at all times, and whenever a decision is made, everyone in the company has to ask, “Will this be good for the customer?” It’s only common sense.

 

 

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