Often after one of my presentations, an attendee will approach me to tell me of a terrible customer experience with one of the big brands. They ask me, “If they say that customer service is so important, then why is it so bad? Corporations are people, too. And if they are people, then aren’t they customers at some point? Don’t they experience what we experience? Don’t they get it?”
I respond to them by saying that no matter how much those companies say they value customer feedback, don’t expect their delivery of customer service to get better any time soon. While C-level executives must be customers and experience service for themselves, they experience it like they do in the first class section flying on a plane. Since they are not personally paying for the ticket, they do not worry about getting their money’s worth. They do not weigh the experience with the expense to assess value like we do. Going to the front of the line and with ample leg room and access to whatever their needs might want, they are blind to what we real customers must endure behind that first-class curtain. As we complain about cramped leg room and rising baggage fees, they simply do not hear any of it through their noise-cancelling headphones.
When they are back in the office, they do what they were hired to do which is to maximize profits. While executives have a base pay we would envy, they are moved to maximize profits to earn their incentive pay of bonuses and stocks. And if sales are flat because customers can’t afford to spend much, then to protect their profit margins, executives dictate layoff and other cost cutting measures, oblivious to its impact on the customer experience. To them, customer centricity measures do not quantify with an ROI on a profit statement. So I understand why they do what they do. I understand it. That doesn’t mean I agree with it.
Unfortunately, customers don’t hire the people who serve them. Companies do. And companies, led by those executives, don’t care. The fish stinks from the head down, but the head does not know it’s stinking.
I believe the real question is “How does a customer service representative who wants to give exceptional service survive in a company that doesn’t care?”
If you are one of those C-level executives: Don’t wait for Undercover Boss to call. Make it a part of your daily leadership regimen to get out of the office to find out what is really going on in your operation. You can’t build the business without sales. And you can’t build sales without satisfied customers. If you don’t know what’s going on, one employee could kill your business and you won’t even know it when it happens. I can tell you that every C-level executive who has been spotlighted on Undercover Boss finds out that the company isn’t performing as well as he/she thought it was. I can also tell you that any viewer of Undercover Boss who is an employee in any company can tell you that they saw it coming.
If you are an employee: Theodore Roosevelt said, “Success, the real success, does not depend upon the position you hold but upon how you carry yourself in that position.” You do not need a CEO title to act like a leader. Know this: At the moment that the customer is interacting with you, you have as much ability to build customer loyalty as your CEO. Make the difference for your customer. Your goal: When the customer walks away from you, he says to himself, “Wow! That person really took care of me.”