Leadership Support for Customer Service

“Employees who are controlled cannot respond caringly, you need superior knowledge and real leadership, not management. Because of this we specifically developed a selection process for leaders; we don’t hire managers”.Horst Schulze

Rising competition, limited resources, similar products, and a shrinking marketplace, are aspects that a company’s leadership are compelled to deal with regularly. These in turn take away from the attention that some other crucial aspects of business could need – one of them being customer service. Leadership support for customer service is an imperative portion of service excellence, and without the support, service levels are prone to falling and failing. No aspect of business, can survive without support from every ‘corner’ of the organization, and customer service is no different. Without top levels of service, a business would lose customers, reputation, and eventually be forced to shut down.

Customers provide feedback, and convey their dissatisfaction in a variety of ways, of which some would come through the service teams, while other feedback would come through the top brass of the company. In order to display leadership support for customer service, it is the duty of the leadership to communicate the ‘feelings’ and concerns of the company’s customers to everyone in the organization since customer service is not a department, but the responsibility of each person in the company. By providing attention and staying involved, leadership support for customer service becomes very noticeable, thereby ensuring that others in the organization emulate the actions and behaviours of their leaders. It is the duty of a company’s leadership to extend as much support to customer service and experience programs in the company, to foster a customer-centric culture.

While it is ideal to have leadership support for customer service, the reality is that this is far from true. Leaders, especially in the customer service realm face continuous challenges in the form of changing and competing priorities, changes in the market and the company, volatile economic conditions, and other such hardships, which make it tough to focus on actual service to customers. These ‘trials’ are time consuming and require a lot of focused attention, which in turn detracts from the critical aspect of support to customer service. The fact is that over time, customers have consistently rated service as the top reason for choosing and staying with a company. Without leadership support for customer service, it would be impossible for any company to maintain consistently high standards of service that customers expect and deserve.

Change is inevitable in any company, and leadership changes occur all the time. It would be the responsibility of the company to hire leaders with experience, and an attitude for customer service. This way a change in leadership would not affect the continuity and momentum of any customer service program / project being run in the company. In fact, the new leader should be ‘brought up to speed’ on the program even before she or he joins the company, including achievements and challenges of the program. In whatever manner a company decides to run a service program, it is imperative for it to extend leadership support for customer service and ensure that everyone in the company remains aware of such support. A company must publicize such support too, ensuring that the customers and other ‘interested parties’ know the importance the company places on serving its customers, and taking the business to new heights.

Meetings are commonplace in a number of companies, but sometimes fail to achieve anything long-term or useful. In order to show leadership support for customer service, the company must reach out to customers, gain their feedback, and then share that feedback in-depth with others in the company. Holding meetings to share customer views, discuss service related problems, and look for solutions, are a great idea and would be fruitful. These meetings must include a cross-section of employees, with a person from the leadership team at the helm. This top person would be in a better position to address concerns, find solutions to tough problems, and provide sanctions for freebies and discounts, and other such speedy decisions, which may not be in the purview of people in other job roles. Meetings must yield results if they are to be considered effective and the presence of leadership in customer service meetings would be immensely beneficial.

We know that customer service can be a highly stressful, frustrating, and tiring job. Very often, the achievements and efforts go unnoticed, making it even more frustrating and thankless for those working in it. To prove leadership support for customer service, a company must ensure that the efforts, towards providing top service to the company’s customers, do not go unnoticed. There should be a structured reward and recognition program specially designed for the customer service teams in order to make them feel valued and appreciated, and to send a clear signal to all in the organization about the importance of customer service in the company, and the support of leadership towards it.

One of the more tedious portions of service excellence is gaining customer feedback. Companies often make the mistake of using the same survey forms and questions for years, simply because it is extremely cumbersome to change the questions and the assessment matrix that captures trend data. It is imperative to keep an open mind, and gain leadership support for customer service in order to make it easier to gain resources to make vital changes to service programs, such as feedback surveys. There could be a possibility that with an increase in the company’s customer base size, managing feedback surveys may longer be possible in-house. In such a situation, it would be imperative for the leaders of the company to sanction funds and approve the use of a professional company to handle the entire feedback survey process, and produce an articulate report providing all the information and statistics connected with the survey. Without leadership support for customer service, such attention, and sanctions would not be possible, leading to a marked drop in service levels, and ultimately the complete failure of a company.

Another aspect where leadership support for customer service should be apparent, is the kind of people a company hires for its service teams and overall for the company. Every employee should be hired keeping in mind the culture of the company and in cognizance with customer-centricity. For the service teams especially, it would be of great importance to hire people with inherent qualities of empathy, teamwork, service, and a willingness to listen. The employees must have relevant experience, and score high on communication and interpersonal skills. The reason that leadership support would be required to hire such employees is that these employees would be the crème, not easy to come by, and would be more ‘expensive’ to hire than other talent, without such experience and traits. It is only through leadership support that hiring personnel would have the leeway and authority to spend more in order to bring in the ‘right’ kind of staff for their service teams and programs.

Irrespective of the reasons, and the approach a company may use, the fact is that customer service requires broad-based support – across the organization. Through leadership support for customer service it would be a lot easier to incorporate and cement practices and insights that would serve as a foundation for top class service that continues to improve over the years.


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