You know that moment when you approach the counter and the employee is indifferent or, even worse, rude to you? Who do you blame for that? Is the employee at fault? Perhaps they’re having a bad day and taking it out on the customer? How about the manager? He is supposed to be ‘managing’, no? What about the supervisor? Didn’t they hire and screen the manager with the expectation that they would provide excellent customer service? What about the executive in charge? Aren’t they responsible for quality and level of service for the entire staff? And on it goes…
The problem is one of caring. In general, if the boss doesn’t care the employees certainly don’t. Caring trickles down. Every level of employee cares slightly less than the level above. There are anomalies, sure, where every now and then a single employee really wants to make a difference but if that behavior is not rewarded quickly and loudly, it will disappear.
Not caring is expressed in a lot of ways. I once worked for a guy that gave Friday morning pump-up speeches about how much he appreciated everyone’s efforts and he understood the staff’s sacrifices in staying late… just before grabbing his briefcase and heading for the door hours before the office closed so he could beat weekend traffic. Memos, speeches, emails and praise mean nothing compared to actions. And it is the actions the staff is watching; they’ve already learned the words are empty.
So, why doesn’t the girl at the counter treat the customer with respect and regard? Because the manager is hiding in the office. He says he cares -heck, he teaches the customer service course- but his actions say he doesn’t. And why doesn’t the manager care? Because the regional manager only stops by once a quarter and when he does it is for a pre-arranged appointment, when everything is cleaned up nice for his arrival. He never pops in on his free time, never takes the manager to lunch on his own dime, never knows the employees names without asking his assistant. Quick aside: I worked for one executive who literally had name cards printed out by his assistant in advance of meeting with his staff that he would look at before answer a question, “Yes, um… Joe, that’s a good idea that should be fully implemented in your department which is… um… IT.” I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have been offended if I had a similar card with his vitals printed on it so I could remember his name and role. The inference was that he was important enough to remember but, we the staff, on the other hand, were not. Did he also do that when meeting with clients or other executives? Probably not. It was clear who he cared about and was certainly was not his staff.
Caring is caring. Doing is doing. If the goal is to build a successful business, start by taking care of your staff and expecting them to perform at the same level as you. Set the standard and do so with your actions, not your memos. And do it soon before your customers start wondering why they care more than you do.