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ARTICLESManagement & Service


Recently I did an introductory session in 'Meet and Greet' for a group of floor associates of a retail chain. After the first session, I had a meeting with the Vice President Human Resources on how to take the program ahead. We had a 90minute discussion, delving deeper from the present to where they wish to head, what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. By the end of the discussion, it was evident that leadership needed more involvement in service initiatives than the floor associates need the training.


Management felt training would help the associates, but with introspection, it dawned that leaders needed to have their finger on the pulse where service was concerned. The discussion and my observations brought to light gaps in communication from outlet heads to management, lack of awareness on what was happening in the store. Their online complaint handling process was far from professional.


With frontline usually bearing the brunt of service delivery, it is time to see customer experience from a different perspective. Yes, I am referring to leadership!

Are leaders truly involved in driving the service culture in an organisation?

If so, what are they doing about it?


Leadership's involvement plays a key role in driving the customer experience initiatives in any organisation, because they set the pace for others to maintain. A true service culture happens when all are involved and not customer facing employees alone


Here are a few concrete kick-off actions leaders can initiate in understanding their service standards


1.     Leaders have to include customer complaints in the agenda of their management meeting. They have to diligently review customer feedback.

2.     Analyze top cases and assign them to senior managers to resolve. This would give them the opportunity to have the finger on the pulse and set the pace.

3.     Check the number of cases closed and lessons learnt for the next management meeting.

4.    Managers should make at least one customer visit every month, senior management should do one customer visit in three months and top management to visit customers every six months. I mean formal visits to their office and not social meetings at a party or event.

5.     Complaint resolution and customer visits by leaders to be linked to management KPI's.

6.     Form a task force of frontline staff to suggest recommendations to management. These suggestions should be implemented and if not implemented, give sufficient reasons with a request to further review and revise.

7.     Demonstrate a healthy cross functional engagement with customers for all in the organisation to emulate

How does this help?

-   In addition to feedback from their teams this will help leaders get factual feedback from the customer

-  It will ensure leaders work with their teams, understand what is happening and what improvement needs to be done with their processes and policies

-  It helps leaders to get closer to their teams and understand their challenges, resulting in similar reactions from frontline who will feel motivated while handling customers.

-   And for the customer, it would be a breath of fresh air. Having senior management visit them would literally mean business. It would give them a very different feeling.

-   For the organization, they would be setting themselves apart from competition with a  unified focus and vision.


So, is it too much to ask leaders to devout time for the customer in their management meetings? For all the time leaders spent in meetings, I doubt!


In fact this should be one of the core business of leaders to pursue. A conscious effort from leaders to focus on service and customer experience will act as a key differentiator for the business. It would take them far ahead from competition.


And all it needs is firm commitment and a process in place for everyone, from the chairman to the charwoman to follow.



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