A Leader’s First Customer

average response time being responsive as a leader buy-in customer retention customer service employee engagement employee experience employee retention engagement importance of leadership in customer service leadership leadership communication what does responsiveness mean Dec 15, 2022
Importance of Leadership in Customer Service

I believe making responsiveness a priority is considerably easier when we understand just how much impact it has. Think about it, would you even consider not responding to a customer or client who represents tens of thousands in profit for your company? I’d guess most of us would put our spouse on hold to return that call! I found an article called Customer Service ROI: How To Measure and Improve Value that went into significant detail on how great customer service shows up in the bottom line. The author grabbed my attention earlier on by sharing that “90% of shoppers consider customer service when deciding whether to do business with a company, so your customer service has a strong ROI, whether or not you’re aware. It’s up to you whether that ROI is positive or negative.” Before going into some metrics that were far more than I bargained for, they also emphasized that “great customer service improves customer retention, which is an especially important avenue for growth, especially considering the cost to acquire new customers has increased by 60% in recent years.”

I can’t argue with either point! In fact, I believe both have strong parallels with the recruitment and retention I hammer on so frequently… I believe the disconnect though is often in who we view as our customers. In all the years I was involved with internal quality audits for a large manufacturing company, we always stressed that the person purchasing the products we made was not the only customer each employee was serving. The first several years I worked there, I operated a stamping press that processed raw steel from a coil into various flat blanks that would go through several more steps before it ever being assembled into anything that could be boxed and sold. My primary customer was the next operator who would touch those blanks, and everyone else downstream. Understanding that made an immediate difference in how I approached my work!

As leaders, understanding who our customers are should make at least that much difference! I found a really good article on Forbes.com that addressed this idea called Leadership Is A Customer Service Job — For Your Team And Beyond, opening with that statement “In an organization, customer service roles are often delegated to the business development, marketing or sales departments. But when you are in a leadership role, you are also in a customer service role.” The author of this same article went on to share that “Good customer service means meeting your customers’ needs. In the same way, leaders need to be able to put themselves in their customers’ shoes.”

Interestingly enough, I had a conversation with a business owner a while back where I challenged him to approach his employees just like this. He had a great reputation with the clients he interacted with directly but he was struggling to retain the staff he had and to recruit new folks to be part of the organization. I asked why he treated one different from the other. I don’t recall the exact response, but it was something to the tune of “customers pay him and he pays employees,” suggesting that the customer deserves great service and the employees should just do what they’re told. I won’t go into any more detail about that specific situation but I will challenge you to consider whether or not you’d be excited to be on that team…

So how can we tie all this together? I believe understanding that the teams we lead (and that should be read as serve) will be far more engaged when we provide them with great customer service! Being responsive as a leader will also have a direct impact on how we retain great people and attract others to our organizations. The “I’ll get back to you on that” response may be acceptable occasionally with a few people but I sure can’t think of a time where it’s OK as a leader - especially if we don’t follow through!