Customer Experience Begins or Ends with Leadership

Still, to this day, Dale Carnegie has said it best, “People do not leave companies. They leave bad managers!”

It is proven painfully true that bad managers cause low productivity, high employee turnaround, and poor customer experience, all costing companies billions.

Successful companies recognize that a great customer experience begins with a great employee experience. Being customer centric is built on being employee centric. It is impossible to have deliver an exceptional customer experience unless the people taking care of your customers are happy.

If you Google “definition of customer service,” it refers to a paying customer; The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.”

However, your finance department is a customer of your IT Department and visa versa. Each of your internal departments in some form, provides service to other departments and are therefore, customers.

The same attention and care you offer your customers must extend to your employees.  It is a fact that how you treat your employees reflects back to how your employees treat your customers and each other.

Of course this begins with leaders and managers. When leadership provides the right guidance, employees become engaged and engaged employees have statistically greater productivity and job satisfaction resulting in superior customer experience for your customers. Of management’s many responsibilities, mentoring and inspiring its people has the most significant positive impact on the success of the company. And nearly nothing can have more significant negative impact than the disservice perpetrated by a toxic manager.

Toxic managers create toxic environments that put artificial limits on good people and crush spirits. The stress can debilitate even the most hardy of your people. This insidious disservice to a company’s talent impedes its own growth and can slowly kill it.

Toxic managers are often bullies managing through fear. Their people avoid them at all costs. Their only feedback is reprimands when something is wrong. And usually its only wrong because a toxic manager fails to clearly define expectations. This is a classic setup for failure. Positive reinforcement and recognition are foreign to a toxic manager. How do you build a culture of customer-experience minded people with toxic managers? You can’t.

Toxic managers micro-manage. They order people about and expect them to mindlessly obey.

A toxic manager crushes people by rejecting ideas and not allowing them to think for themselves or contribute in a meaningful way. This dissolves employee engagement. When employees are denied opportunities, they feel worthless and give up trying to contribute.

Toxic managers fail to listen. They have no interest in people’s lives or growth and selfishly hold them back. The toxic manager is often fearful of being replaced by a subordinate. Employees also fear being replaced which breeds a culture where people do not share knowledge and try to protect their value.

I could depress you with more examples but I suspect you’ve worked with or for a toxic manager and I hope I didn’t dredge up any bad memories.

Now, let’s flush this negative energy and let’s look at what a thriving employee experience looks like with a great manager and leader.

A great leader builds the company’s future leaders. Employee retention is a primary key to a company’s success.

There are many positive management styles and the best will have similar hallmarks. Great managers listen to their people and know what their goals are both professionally and personally. A great manager understands that a person’s performance is highly affected by what is happening to them out of office. A great manager challenges people with opportunities to learn and grow. They understand their people’s capabilities and make sure they have the tools and the skills to excel at their job.

A great leader knows how and when to resist the urge to take control.

A great manager clearly defines goals and allows people to think for themselves and offer solutions. They then step back and monitor progress.

A great leader makes certain that people understand exactly what the company expects of them personally and from their work. They regularly review metrics to make sure people stay on course and help readjust when required. A great leader encourages people to ask questions without fear of being criticized but also asks the hard questions in return.

A great leader provides positive re-enforcement during an employee’s training. They will engage by asking for opinions and ideas and they inspire by making the employee feel valued. They are generous with their recognition of a job well done.

A great leader will support people’s decisions and in some cases allow them to make mistakes as a learning opportunity. A great leader knows that people will have failures, and teach them to fail small and move on.

A great leader doesn’t wait until the annual review to tell someone whether they have hit their marks. A great leader will monitor performance with informal reviews to help people meet their goals. If they wish to grow, they must already be performing at the next level.

Finally, a great leader is grooming their replacement because a great leader’s own goal is also to achieve the next level.

How does a company find out if their managers are great or toxic? You ask your people, anonymously. This becomes crucial if your people are Millennials (more on that in another post).

Engaged employees lead to exceptional customer experiences and success or failure depends on your managers. Your customer experience strategy must begin with great leaders.

If you uncover a toxic manager, the success of your company depends on how you handle them. Flush them if you have to.

– Please read my other posts for ways to help improve your company’s customer experience and share it if you’ve found it helpful.


About the Author

Gerry Criscenzo, founder of Advanced Service Knowledge is passionate about delivering an exceptional customer experience.  He has over 30 years experience managing customer facing teams in very demanding customer service  industries such as automotive services, IT Services and Home Remodeling/Contractor Services. Gerry is available for consulting, keynote speaking and training.  Read more

Please feel free to comment or A.S.K. for topics that you would like covered.

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