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Guest Blog: Why Every Manager is a Customer Service Manager

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Graham Frost writes about how every manager in every company is responsible for customer service. I especially like the Sam Walton quote he shares. – Shep Hyken I know a manager who has been promoted to a senior position within his company. We were having a chat […]

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Graham Frost writes about how every manager in every company is responsible for customer service. I especially like the Sam Walton quote he shares. – Shep Hyken

I know a manager who has been promoted to a senior position within his company. We were having a chat about customer service standards, and he interrupted me with the line

‘Well, I don’t really have any responsibility for customer service now I am in head office…’

I told him that, in my view, everyone in every organization has responsibility for customer service. A former CEO I worked with underused the Sam Walton quote a lot: ‘If you are not serving a customer, you need to be serving someone who is’.

So, head office managers, are you putting standards and behaviors in place that facilitate great customer service at the front end of your business, or are you destroying your customer experience by introducing ridiculous corporate rules to make your own life easier?

I once worked with a manager who was fond of setting unachievable service standards. His response, when I challenged him on the effect his ideas would have on the front-line people and customers, was ‘They’ll get used to it’. Well, on this particular occasion, the introduction of an unachievable standard led to the loss of several experienced people and to a reduction in customer satisfaction. The decision was eventually reversed, but not until after the damage was done.

On another occasion, I was visiting a colleague in the I.T. support tem when his phone rang. It was a member of the front-line team at one of our retail stores who was having problems with the cash till. All that my colleague needed to do was log in to the machine remotely and solve the problem. However, he had just had a call from a senior manager who had a problem with his laptop, and he decided to fix that first. That company had a core value ‘Great Customer Service’, but this was not translated into real actions. If my colleague had really been a ‘Customer Service Manager’ he would have focused on the problem that was nearest to the customer first.

So, when a situation at work confronts you, do you think of ‘customer’ first? When I worked for a railway company in the U.K. during the 1990s and early 2000s, we had some great role models. Our CEO was totally customer-focused. One day a busy train with over 600 passengers on board broke down at York Station and the customers and their luggage had to be transferred to another train on a different platform. The CEO was in a meeting in the headquarters building a few hundred yards away when the situation was brought to his attention. He adjourned the meeting and brought his fellow Directors and senior managers to the station to help the front-line team to transfer the customers to the new train. This set the standard very high. I was working as a trainer and immediately recognized that if the CEO of the company and his team put such a great emphasis on customer service, everyone else would do so too.

How much of a gap is there in your organization between what you say and what you do? How aligned are your support functions? Do people in Finance and marketing? H.R. and I.T. teams understand how they fit into your customer service vision.

Graham Frost is a Customer Service and Employee Engagement Specialist based in the U.K. He spent over twenty years on the front line as a team member and leader before moving into training during the 1990s. Graham believes that the role of a manager is to provide the practical and emotional resources to enable their team to be the best that they can be. His new book ‘How To Be A Great Customer Service Manager’ will be available soon.

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