The Role of a CEO in Customer Service

“Teaching your employees something new creates an instant connection, and they will respect you for it. If you can do this in a job interview, you will be sure to attract the smartest people. Money doesn’t mean much to a lot of the smartest people in the world—they want to grow their intelligence rather than their wallet. If you show employees that they will progress intellectually in their career, and economically while at your company, then they will want to work for you.” – Taso Du Val

With customers leaving businesses and refusing to stay at the slightest hint of slovenly service, a very large number of companies are now coming to terms with the fact that top class customer service is critical to their survival. They are realizing that the cost of making amends, gaining new customers, and repairing the damage to reputation can actually be quite disastrous and would have the potential to bring a company down. The role of a CEO in customer service is critical to bring about a mind-set change company-wide, and can be the difference between success and failure. When employees see the top person directly involved in serving customers, they are very likely to emulate the actions, and aim to exceed the expectations of the company’s customers and work with cooperation with each other.

It may seem simple to provide good customer service. However, that is not true – to ensure customer service excellence each time and with every customer, it would take a lot of effort and requires a top-down effort. In large companies that have huge customer bases, there are usually very large numbers of employees who directly face and interact with the customers. Not everyone would be inclined to bear the pressure of facing tough customers, or serving them with a true spirit of care and empathy, despite the processes, guidelines, and best of technology that a company may have. In order to ensure that each person in the organization understands their role in serving the customers, it would be important for the CEO to be inclined towards customer service. It is a combination of leadership and resources that make a company successful, especially in this realm – the role of a CEO in customer service cannot be denied or underestimated.

The reason that the role of a CEO in customer service is so critical is because customers are beyond ‘lip service’ and employees too need constant motivation and encouragement to do their jobs well. Even more so, given that companies expect each person in the company to understand the importance of customer service, employees that are not part of the customer facing teams are unlikely to do more than their essential job roles. If they however, perceive the top person making efforts towards service, they would be more willing to cooperate. Hence, it is not surprising to see an increasing number of CEOs getting involved in customer service in a big way. The challenge however, of the role of a CEO in customer service is that it is not scalable or even sustainable – the reason being that the top person is the primary decision maker and would be responsible for making strategic decisions, and it would be impractical for this person to be involved in every customer issue / complaint. While the role of a CEO in customer service is important, most of these top people are certainly not equipped or trained to handle these everyday issues and more importantly, they would not have the time to do so.

Even if the CEO has no direct involvement in customer service, what this person can do is use their experience, knowledge, skills, and expertise to understand the needs and expectations of customers. Understanding these critical attributes of customers, will help the CEO to formulate strategies and build a culture of service that would span the entire company. When customer service is woven in the framework of a company, it soon becomes ‘habit’ and each person begins to see the role they play in keeping customers happy. In addition, another indirect role of a CEO in customer service, is to ensure that the customer facing teams are equipped with the resources, training and development opportunities, and guidance to keep customers feeling valued by providing them top class service. The benefits of keeping customers happy, connecting with them emotionally and understanding them are not a secret anymore.

Happy and well-served customers are more likely to cooperate with a company and be willing to provide insights and feedback that the company can use to improve and forge ahead of their competitors. These insights and support from customers are a great way to transform the face of a business, produce innovative offerings, and take a business to new heights. The role of a CEO in customer service is also to set time aside to speak directly with customers to assess how they feel about the company, its offerings, and the service they receive. From a customer’s perspective, they would much rather a company was proactive and displayed interest in them, rather than reacting and responding only when things go haywire. From the employees point of view, the CEO spending time on the frontlines with the teams and assessing their challenges in dealing with customers, would go a long way in heightening their enthusiasm and encouraging them to do their jobs even better.

The truth about the role of a CEO in customer service is that it can completely alter the perception customers have of a company. Customers begin to believe the company’s promises and their commitment towards serving them well, when they see the direct involvement of the top person in serving them. This is possibly the best form of customer development, service, and advertisement for the company, and can help to grow the business at an accelerated pace, keeping every person in the company excited and energized. Another indirect part that a CEO would perform in customer service is to ensure that the people hired for the service teams are passionate about serving customers. It is important to emphasize to the recruitment team and managers the necessary skills, aptitude, and attitude they need to search for when recruiting for the service teams. The interviewing process must be robust and the interviewers adept at recognizing attributes such as empathy, fortitude, positivity, clarity while communicating, and an interest to grow consistently. People with these inherent qualities would make better service representatives and it would be easier to train them in the necessary skills and techniques pertinent to the company.

Another role of a CEO in customer service is to ensure that the employees of the company are taken care of well, receive adequate compensation, have access to rewards and recognition, have opportunities for training and development, and overall the culture of the company must promote happiness, collaboration, and positivity. No one must feel limited – in fact, employee empowerment is now one of the points many companies use to attract top talent. Employees that consistently perform over their expected job roles, must receive some sort of recognition, be further empowered by more responsibilities and privileges, and once in a while, gain time with the CEO for a cuppa or maybe even a lunch. This involvement from the CEO would not only encourage the top performers to get better, but ensure that the others work up to the same levels if they wish to enjoy these ‘privileges’.

The role of a CEO in customer service, as is evident, does not necessarily have to be direct involvement. This top person must constantly exhibit support and understanding of the challenges and benefits of serving customers, since doing so will help the service teams to provide excellent service at all times, making the customers happy and successful – which they would pay back to the company manifold.

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