True Customer Experience Leadership: Do You Breed Initiative Beyond Procedures?

True Customer Experience Leadership Breeds Initiative Beyond Procedures


Leaders, true customer experience leadership succeeds by believing that procedures can only go so far. There is no way to foresee everything the customer will request. Employees close the remaining gaps to ensure a great customer experience.


That is, they do if you breed employee initiative. Even when you are not comfortable empowering them fully, foster their sense of initiative. Without it, customer experience and your brand image falters. True customer experience leadership doesn’t let this happen.

True Customer Experience Leadership:; Image is an empty packet of ketchup.

True Customer Experience Leadership: Breed Initiative. Image by Hi Turkey Toe via Flickr.

Image by Hello Turkey Toe via Flickr Creative Commons License.

A True Story to Illustrate

I was in an upscale grocery store that had a  cafe for dining.  The store is known for their customer service. They are also heavy into metrics, procedures, forecasting and planning.  I was in the cafe eating on a Thursday evening and two staff members were nearby discussing that they had run out of ketchup packets. The conversation was very telling.

“Can you believe we’re out of ketchup? How can a grocery store be out of ketchup?”

I heard the employees and said, “Maybe you could get some bottles from the grocery aisle and put them around this restaurant section. You could ask the general manager how to account for it. It would be great customer service and the diners would appreciate it.” Other diners heard me and echoed what I said.

He simply replied, “Oh well, I think the ketchup packets are coming in on Saturday.”  He showed no initiative. Not even to bring it to management’s attention.

Will the diners overlook that there was no ketchup? Possibly. 

Will they forget that employees did nothing to help when bottles of ketchup were a short walk away? Probably not.

This upscale grocery store does a huge in-store dining business. They also cater extensively. So why did employees do nothing to address the customer experience gap?

Is there true customer experience leadership at this grocery store chain? Or have the leaders put so much focus on planning, metrics, and procedures that employees believe they must live within that frame?

True Customer Experience Leadership: Inspire Initiative If Not Empowerment

It is so interesting that the employees were aware of how customers would perceive the shortage. They knew it would seem illogical for a cafe in a grocery store to be out of ketchup. They were in tune with customers’ views yet showed no initiative to close the gap.

Did they know they should? Great customer experience must go beyond what leadership foresees, prescribes, and plans.

  1. Inspiration. Leaders as you speak with employees, your words cannot be purely about metrics and procedures. You must talk and walk a can-do attitude to close customer experience gaps. It is by your daily demeanor and behavior that the employees become inspired to care for customers — beyond procedures.

  2. Initiative. Breed a sense of initiative in all employees. Initiative is the action to see what’s possible. Even if you don’t empower employees to decide on the solution, their initiative can bring the real life customer experience questions to your attention. Show them your initiative in closing customer experience gaps and call them to do the same.

  3. Remove the fear. Organizations with a strong focus on metrics, inadvertently breed employee fear of stepping outside of standard procedures that drive the metrics. Employees prefer to play it safe even if the customer experience and brand reputation suffers. True customer experience leadership removes the fear by removing the blame. Never punish an employee for showing initiative and bringing customer experience gaps to your attention. Better yet, empower them to act!

Are you using true customer experience leadership to breed initiative beyond procedures? It readies everyone in the company to make a difference for the customer!

Pose this question at your next leadership or all hands meeting for no-cost customer experience improvement. The question and the answers can transform your culture!

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

Related Posts:
Service Recovery: Go Beyond Problem Solving
Customer Experience: The Opposite of Convenience May Surprise You
Customer Experience Leadership: Are Your Metrics to Loud to Hear the Customer?

©2014 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 for permission and guidelines. 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.



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