Guest Blog Post – The Customer Centric Leader

Guest Blogger – Jennifer V. Miller

Many companies aspire to customer service greatness, but few achieve it. Why? One reason is that it’s not part of the company’s culture. Oh, sure, it’s on banners in the break room and the company hired that fun inspirational speaker for “Customer Service Week.”   But it’s not really part of the culture—not ingrained in the company DNA. Why? Well, one reason is that it can be difficult for the company’s leadership to really, truly get behind a customer service culture. It takes hard work on the leadership team’s part to bring life to and sustain an organizational culture that’s customer-centric. Leaders have many other items competing for their attention and “customer service” often gets left to the front-line employees. That’s a big mistake on any leader’s part.

Here are three ways leaders can help shape and promote the customer experience:

Model it. You have to be a good role model. If you don’t return calls, are abrupt when someone questions you or don’t deliver on promises, would you really expect otherwise of your customer-facing employees? There’s just no way around it. The “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” mentality won’t cut it. Creating a customer-centric culture starts with leaders who model it. All other things flow from that.

Talk about it. Already have a set service motto or value statement? Great—talk it up! Saying it once or twice has very little effect. You’d be surprised how often you need to discuss providing quality service. Caution: no pontificating about how the customer is always right or any other windbag speech with platitudes. It’s about conversation. Engage employees about what they see as key customer service issues in your department. What’s working? What’s not? Be truly open to what your employees have to say about the customer experience. After all, who has the majority of the data? They do and they’ll share it if you actively listen.

Celebrate it. Your overall corporate culture will dictate what’s appropriate for “celebrating”. Regrettably, most efforts come across as cheesy events, with front-line employees secretly rolling their eyes. Even so, don’t let the naysayers stop you from genuinely saying “thanks” to employees who serve the customer well. Above all, employees want to know that their efforts matter. Sometimes a small token of thanks goes a lot further than the grand gesture.

Leaders who keep these three actions foremost in their daily to-do list will be far ahead in the game for creating a strong service culture in their organization.

Jennifer V. Miller is the Managing Partner of SkillSource, a firm that provides consulting, online courseware, train-the-trainer programs and workshop facilitation in the areas of communications, management, supervisory skills and team development. She can be reached at:

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