Author: Sherry Perkins
I was sitting with a client the other day, discussing their plans to implement yet another Customer Satisfaction Survey. As it turned out, this would be the third appeal to their clients for feedback regarding their service level, and it was potentially an opportunity for their third set of disappointing results. What could have caused this history of low customer satisfaction? What was it about their service to clients that was less than desirable? But, more than that, why couldn’t they turn this pattern of poor service around?
Were they really paying attention to the feedback from their customers? Were they acting on this feedback or just checking off another box on their “to do” list? Was there some more obscure cause for their ineffectiveness in the area of customer service?
As I engaged the client further, I determined that the senior executives were legitimately concerned about customer satisfaction, and were genuinely interested in improving their service level. However, interviews with managers and individual contributors revealed some intriguing discoveries. Their external customer service (as bad as it was) was far better than their internal service. There were perceptions of work sabotage, silos, back-biting and, fighting between departments, stolen praise, toxic leadership, process drains, and structural problems (within the organizational framework) that made external service difficult and internal service nearly impossible.
Is Your Organization Akin to the Shoemaker’s Children?
The initial findings called for a closer look into the culture of the organization, and the results were akin to the old adage, “the shoemaker’s children have no shoes.” Many of us use this expression, in jest, to describe the disparity between what we sell and what we use. Although there is some implied levity in the expression, the reality of its relevance is not at all funny. If the truth is known, when we don’t practice what we preach (or when we don’t walk our own talk), we put our credibility in jeopardy. Who would trust the wisdom of a mortally obese fitness coach? Who would follow the guidance of a business development specialist who had neither read about nor worked in a business environment? Who would place their confidence in one who says do as I say, not as I do? There is an even more poignant adage that I learned as a young adult: “you can lead where you don’t go; you can teach what you don’t know; and you can preach what you don’t show” (Author unknown).
The Tell-Tale Signs of Service Level
Similarly, it would appear impractical to evaluate the service level of an organization from an external perspective without seriously considering how that organization views service from an internal perspective. Simply stated, if you’re looking for clues to determine how your customers are being treated, you need only look to how your staff members treat each other. The tell-tale signs appear in the following ways:
- Their responsiveness to one another
- The level of support for each other’s projects
- The communication style used in their formal and informal communications
- The level of trust engendered one to another
- The manner in which they celebrate each other’s accomplishments
- The way they work to heal each other’s wounds
You can begin to understand the level and type of service experienced by your customers when you carefully examine the mindset, attitudes, and behaviors exhibited by your employees toward each other. Very few can give away what they don’t have (for example: it is difficult to show trust if you haven’t been trusted). If your organization is shoddy in delivering service to itself, it can rarely exhibit excellence in giving service to others.
The chart that follows reflects some of the worst internal examples of a service-oriented mentality, and how that mentality is extrapolated to an external service orientation.
Internal Service Environment
|There is a feeling of instability and uncertainty in the workplace.||Employees lack confidence during customer-facing situations. They lack boldness and tend to make clients feel insecure.|
|Employees experience a lack of trust among each other. There is negative competition between team members.||Employees set up artificial barriers and protective shields. They exhibit distant behavior. They may not be forthcoming,
they lack openness and authenticity.
|Information is kept close to the vest. There is evidence of hoarding.||Employees exhibit an unwillingness to share insight, information with clients. They are not forthcoming; may seem vague or nebulous.|
|Employees are watching their backs.||Employees are not watching your clients.|
|Employees feel unappreciated and unrewarded.||Employees may come across as cool, indifferent, and/or self-serving.|
|Employees feel over-managed, environment is unforgiving.||Employees exhibit a lack of accountability, may appear disengaged.|
|Employees are unresponsive to each other.||Employees exhibit low responsiveness to customer.|
|Employees feel under-employed, under-utilized.||Employees become indecisive, lack accountability, and appear dis-engaged.|
|Not a team player, competitive.||Comes across as adversarial, defensive.|
|Lacks an abundance mentality. Example: My teammate must lose, so I can win.||Transfers lack of abundance mentality to customer. Example: Customer must lose, so that I can win|
|Argumentative, has a desire to win at all cost.||May appear inflexible, unyielding, and aggressive or passive aggressive.|
|Failure is not an option.||At its extreme, may appear unforgiving, vengeful. Must win at all cost.|
|Empty job satisfaction, cannot recover from a loss, lacks resilience.||Pours little into the client, for fear of being totally depleted. Sees the client as a hopeless investment, not worth their time.|
I learned from another client a simple truth that has become a part of my portfolio of wisdom on service. This organization is recognized as a premier provider of service in the financial industry. They believe that service begins at home, among the family members of the company. Service excellence is about creating a “WOW” experience with each employee-to-employee encounter.
When every employee is treated in such a way that they can’t help but say “WOW” after each interaction, then and only then are they ready to demonstrate that same level of excellence to their external customer. When that is done, their service goal is met.