How Leaders Retard Customer Service Excellence

Leaders of customer service organizations — have you set the bar as high as your customers expect? Do you lower the bar without realizing it and thus retard customer service excellence?

As I work with leaders of customer service teams and IT technical support teams, I see their inspiration sour without their awareness.

So here is a checklist to help you assess whether you inspire all team members to service excellence every day or inadvertently stop them from delivering the best.

How Leaders Retard Customer Service Excellence. Image Licensed from Istock.

Leaders, Are You Souring Customer Service Excellence?

  • Letting your own inspiration sour. Do you stay passionate about customer service excellence every day or is your passion waning? When customers give negative feedback, do you welcome it as a gift or justify it with a list of service obstacles? Action: Listen to your own thoughts for one full day. Replace any justification with an inquiry of how to make things better.

  • Skipping daily inspiration of the teams. If you are passionate about service, do you inspire the teams every day or proclaim you aren’t a cheerleader? Developing and leading a culture of service excellence is not about cheerleading.
    Action: Take everyone from inspiration to action with vision, strategy, and mentoring.

  • Blaming customers instead of improving delivery. As customers’ service expectations rise, do your teams hear you calling customers unreasonable? Or do you engage the teams to innovate for customer service excellence?
    Action: Replace blame with curiosity and inventiveness. Blame short circuits success.

  • Accepting second class status. Have you accepted upper management’s definition of customer service as an expense not an asset? It happens to many leaders and skews them to focus only on the metrics that prove cost effectiveness. Cost effective is important yet it is not an inspirational mission.
    Action: Build strong service bonds with revenue generating functions and through them redefine customer service as an asset.

  • Over empathizing with employees’ challenges. Do you lower the bar of excellence to make team members happy? Or do you inspire them to raise the bar and find satisfaction in delivering excellence?
    Action: Empathize with the struggle; engage for solutions.

  • Spending too much time on operations and not enough time on relations. Customer service excellence is found at the nexus of great relationships and effective operations. An extreme focus on operations buries reps in procedures and makes service feel labored and uncaring to customers.
    Action: Start each day with a service mantra and use procedures as guidelines to make excellence come to life.

Much can happen to customer service leaders as they raise the flag of customer service in the daily charge for excellence. Upper management’s demands for value and the customers’ never ending expectations can eventually turn your exhilaration into exasperation unless you re-inspire yourselves and your teams daily.

Find the light of your passion and keep it burning bright. If you don’t, how will your teams continue to shine?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Additional posts of interest:
Do You WOW Customers w/Every Exception?
10 Winning Beliefs for Superior Customer Experience

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

5 Responses to “How Leaders Retard Customer Service Excellence”

  1. Ryan Setter says:

    Hi Kate,

    What an excellent set of checkpoints for any service-based organization – whether it be servicing external or internal customers. As a consultant who is normally deeply embedden within large organizations, every person that I interact with on a daily basis is a “customer”, and it is of utmost importance that I always maintain this mindset.

    My work is team-based. I am either handed an already assembled team to adopt, or I am bringing in a team of my own. We are almost always in the business of building a custom solution for an internal customer or group. There is no doubt that each one of the points that you bring up are extremely important in maintaing quality and excellence, while at the same time maintaining a very respectful relationship with our internal customers. Frequent inspiration is definitely important to keep things in-check. I especially like the action of “Take everyone from inspiration to action with vision, strategy, and mentoring.”

    I love that you called out “Over empathizing with employees’ challenges”. This in itself is a challenge that I see people (leaders) struggle with a lot. When improperly dealt with, I’ve seen this do harm in multiple contexts.

    Thank you for your excellent words of wisdom and advice,

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Ryan,
      So pleased that you described your work for it illustrates the many variations of customer service challenges that exist. I am grateful that you heralded my warning about over empathizing with employees. Either way … insensitive or too blinded by emotion … and the leadership and the customer service excellence can suffer.

      Many thanks for your addition to this post and all your technical tips on my other post!
      Best regards,

  2. What a great checklist. Thanks for sharing. I have to agree with Ryan’s comment. “Over Empathizing” is where leaders cross the line from listening to their front line staff in order to understand (a vital aspect of leadership), and shift over to listening to front line for excuses. Usually, this is a symptom of your first point, “Letting inspiration sour”, plus your third point, “Blaming customers’ expectations”. Great customer service is truly hard work, but can be very rewarding (both for individuals and the organization). A service culture is something that must be nurtured, practiced and reinforced every day.

  3. Shep Hyken says:

    Your message is clear. Leaders don’t just need to be good managers of business. They need to be role models for the employees to look up to, admire and emulate. Leaders need to be aware of the messages they send employees based on their behavior and comments.

  4. Thank you, Kate, for this timely reminder. You’ve highlighted key dynamics behind growing a “culture of service.” Any group’s “culture” is basically a critical mass of their attitudes and behaviors. And, service standards emphasizing only or primarily operational metrics can do so to the detriment of the attitudes that actually enhance a vibrant culture of service. The number one driver of service excellence, which I’ve seen from years of partnering with service providers is their leadership’s attitudinal vision. You’ve sent out a clear reminder of that reality…

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