Leaders, Get ALL Your Employees to Think Customer Care!

A customer service trainer and colleague, Laurie Brown of TheDifference.Net, often asks customer service reps What Business Are You In?. What would you reply? The customer service and care business? Or would you reply the airline business, the retail business, the technology business, the healthcare business? As a leader, your answer directly impacts what you and your employees think, say, and do for the customer.

ALL Think Customer Care By:AmandaWoodward

You may see this as logical for the teams directly tasked with customer service, customer care and sales. Yet leaders, ask yourselves, do all your employees think that customer care is their job? Do you think so? We know the legendary philosophy of Disney, Nordstroms, and Ritz Carlton. We also know that not every company embraces it. Reasons range from “cost” to “industry differences”.

So consider this post a plea to reconsider and a getting started guide for the sake of your business.

Even if you keep non-customer facing teams truly separated from the customer, they must think and act customer care in order to enable your sales, customer service, and customer care teams to wow the customer. If they do have occasion to speak with the customer, they must switch their mindset and communication from company focused to customer focused in an instant!

You can get started with no delay and little cost. Use the stories and questions below to spur conversation and action on customer care with the leaders that report to you and throughout your organization.

Accelerate to Customer Care

  1. Exceptions. Non-customer facing teams often live in the world of procedures and standard practices. Customer facing teams like sales, customer service, and customer care live in the world of flexing and adapting to customers’ requests. The gap between these two worlds is where you lose customers and also lose morale among the customer facing teams.
    Action item: Minimize this gap by having customer facing and non-customer facing teams meet and identify the few highest risk areas where procedures must be followed. All else can be flexed and changed to meet the customers’ requests. The bonus from these meetings — better teamwork among all the teams.

  2. Workarounds. To deliver on those exceptions, sometimes employees must first think workarounds rather than the total fix. Here is a story I have used for years to illustrate this as I teach customer care to non-customer facing teams: A customer facing team calls you about a customer’s pressing need. The customer reports he is having trouble printing the financial report and it must be in his CEO’s hands in 10 minutes.
    I then pose this question to workshop participants: What is the problem to be solved? Most of them reply “fix the printer” or “find out why the printer isn’t working”. Bzzzz — wrong answer. The problem to be solved is — get the report to the CEO in 10 minutes! Step 1: What are the possible solutions to achieving this in the time frame needed? Step 2: Once accomplished, what are the solutions to preventing a repeat call?
    Customer facing teams clearly see the purpose of two steps because they experience the urgency on the call. Non-customer facing teams often do not. They often skip step 1.
    Action item: Teach this simple yet powerful principle to your teams.

  3. The New Boss. Non-customer facing teams’ loyalty and focus is frequently to their managers. Their managers write their performance reviews and have a say in promotions. Although this is true of customer facing teams as well, these managers know that in many ways the customer is the boss. The standards these managers use include customer satisfaction and customer WOW feedback. Not always so with the leaders and managers of non-customer facing teams.
    Action item: Include customer satisfaction and customer care teamwork in evaluations of non-customer facing team members.

What would you add to this list to get all employees to think customer care? Would love to hear from you in the comments field below.

©2010 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, has delivered customer care, customer service, and team building workshops for 20 years. Her new training DVD on adapting to regional differences of USA customers is now available. See preview Customer Service USA – What They Expect Coast to Coast.

10 Responses to “Leaders, Get ALL Your Employees to Think Customer Care!”

  1. Michelle Romanica says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Kate. Love your “report to the CEO in 10 mins” exercise. It clearly demonstrates the “transaction” mentality we all know too well and indicates the work we have ahead of us if we are to understand our work in terms of the value we give people. We are in a value-based economy and there is great urgency to help people develop the skills to navigate these changes and genuinely prosper from adding value to their clients’ lives.
    Recently, we ran a contest in a networking group I belong to. the question was asked ..”What do you do” in 10 words or less. I would have liked to see answers to the question “What do you do for your customers/clients” in 10 words or less and then listened for the differences in the answers.
    Warm regards,
    Michelle Romanica

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Exactly Michelle. What do you do for your clients — is the key question! Great comparison. I would have liked to hear the answers as well.

      Many thanks for your contribution to this post.

  2. Elliot Ross says:

    In support of this – here is a quote by a (now former) venture capitalist;
    “I ask everybody in the company “What do you do” and am always surprised how the company’s success trajectory can usually be linked to to the granularity of the answer(s).”

    He states that when you can ask that question, and the answer is how that position is benefiting your customer and your business, not just functional, Then you know you have yourself a high performance organization.

    As I wrote here; http://elliotross.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/what-do-you-do/

    I think we can all learn from that!

  3. Barry Dalton says:

    Absolutely! Every employee needs to view their function through the lens of the customer. I actually dont believe that, in any company that claims to be customer-centric, there are any ‘non-customer facing’ functions. Chris Reaburn wrote a post a while ago about a utility bill as customer touch point. What if that billing department viewed themselves as customer-facing? What about manufacturing? Warehouse? Strategic Planning?

    Two examples I love to reference are 1. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigs List who’s business card states his title as “Founder, CEO & Customer Service Representative” 2. The CEO of ING Bank recently moved his office from the corner suite to a cubical on the contact center floor.

    Point being, a culture of customer centricity needs to be driven from the top. Every function a company performs affects the customer.

  4. Yun-Mei Lin says:

    Kate, it all comes back to the Golden Rule. One of my customer service jobs I’ve had was waitressing – the most visible cause-effect position in the customer service industry one can hold. You give good customer service, you get well-tipped, and vice-versa. I was always rich when I waitressed, and the reason was that I always came to work thinking, if I were spending my hard-earned money to take my loved ones, business associates, etc out to a meal, how did I want my experience to go? Simple. Keep your customers’ needs/expectations at the front of all your actions – it completely shows in your performance.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I absolutely love your analogy “If I were spending my hard-earned money …” — that sums up the essence of a great customer care attitude at least here in our culture. Many thanks Yun-Mei.

  5. Marshall Lee says:

    Great foundational action starters Kate! This is one I’ve implemented for Technical Support groups for software companies. Action: Have the developers, the folks in the back writing code, rotate through Support. Answering emails from some unhappy folks and seeing customers facing “bugs” is eye-opening.

    The product-focused software developers having an opportunity to feel the customer pain first hand, results in real empathy for the ones using their applications. Better appreciation equates to better response to “interruptions” to the normal work schedules in the future. And the front-line experience allows for broad innovative thinking for the next release. Two weeks will get their mindshare and they will become better customer service team members.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Excellent Marshall. I have given the same advice to many IT orgs. and companies. It takes a leader inside to step up and implement this — overcome the resistance of developers who don’t want to do it. Great “add” to this discussion.
      Many thanks,

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