To me this question is somewhat like asking “what’s gasoline got to do with driving?” It’s somewhat hard, though lesser so these days with car options, to do one without the other. I think the misnomer that the same is happening with customer service and leadership as is happening with electric cars – meaning a belief is forming that we need less service (i.e. gasoline) to fuel our leadership efforts in our organizations.
Okay, so that was a mouthful. Perhaps I should be more clear. If you’re not providing high levels of customer service to those you lead, meaning those internal backbones of your business, that’s a problem, period. We focus a great deal of time and effort on the stage face or the game face or show time when it comes to the paying customers and what they see, but how much time and effort do we put forth for those who actually run that show? How much do we fuel the very efforts that drive our business? Double check your level of customer service to those internal customers with these suggestions and see if you think customer service has anything to do with leadership.
It’s easy when an employee says “have you got a sec” to think and or say “um, no”. But we wouldn’t, at least normally do that if a paying customer got lost in our back office and knocked on your door asking the same. We take those we lead for granted and it’s normal to a degree. We see them every day. But, what if you treated them just as you did those customers who pay your paycheck and looked at the internal customers you lead, as those who command your time and attention and whom you are ready and willing to serve with a smile.
We would never dream of saying something impatient to the paying customer or something that would indicate how tired we are of repeating the same type of instructions or policy or suggestion, but we might just shout out of frustration at those whom we work with every day. Powerful, contagious, and effective leaders are patient with those they lead and them help them grow. When you are the leader, those employees are your customers and they deserve the same above and beyond treatment that you are asking them to provide to your paying customers. Remember how long it took you to be a great contagious leader? It might just take at least that long for someone to learn how to effectively follow you, or follow their dreams or improve a skill.
Matt Church out of Australia, who wrote Thought Leaders, shared in a seminar recently that business leaders are in a three pronged dynamic. There are those who “make up” the vision, those who “set up” implementation logistics, and those who “clean up” the loose ends. Leaders come up with the plan (i.e. the make it up), they delegate the set up to those on the team and then they delegate clean up to even more on the team. However, what is fascinating about his approach is that he strongly recommends that once you have made something up (content, strategy, marketing plan, or whatever) that if there aren’t enough folks to clean up that this then falls to the leader. The set up steps are customer facing. The clean up is where broken processes that inhibit customer satisfaction are resolved. As an example, Matt would say this technically “means that if the set up person is bushed from setting up and part of the clean up is to help her take some time off or have a cup of tea, that you, the leader, get to go get her the cup of tea.” Sounds like internal customer service to me.
We’re all familiar with the term servant leader and yet many leaders assume those they hire are there to serve them. It’s built into our business models that date back to the industrial revolution. But, we’re no longer in that revolution. Maybe it’s time to change the model and recognize the need to serve those you lead even more effectively. Customer service is a key part of your role as leader and of course, it’s contagious!