It is no secret; I am a doctoral candidate. On Facebook, I advertised my dissertation to find participants to engage in my dissertation data collection. My dissertation is all about the role of the trainer in call center training. I am looking to answer some specific questions about what a trainer does, their role in training, and flush out details about the role of the call center trainer in establishing genetic memory. My first ad on Facebook, believe it or not, received more direct respondents than my second or third attempts. That the respondents accused me of being fake, a troll, and committing several bodily functions on their timelines bothered me greatly.
When mentioned to representatives from Facebook, who could see the comments and the original ad, the representatives reflected less care than I would have ever imagined. Yet, Facebook claims to be “customer-centric,” “customer-driven,” and “customer-obsessed.” LinkedIn, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile, Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, and many other companies make similar claims and act similarly, where the professed policies are disconnected from reality, and the only person who suffers is oddly the customer. Then, the agents representing these companies are then asked to “go the extra mile for the customer.”
When going the extra mile was first addressed, leadership, training, business processes, and organizational communication all were aspects to the foundation to helping an agent “go the extra mile.” More needs to be discussed on “going the extra mile” and delivering upon the promises made by leadership. However, the discussion is useless unless followed swiftly by concerted action; thus, this article asks for and directly inspires action.
Compounded Leadership Failure
Let’s begin with reality and address the 300# gorilla. To the leaders of companies, customers are listening, and they are not stupid! Whether you believe this or not, your customers do, and they do not like what they see. AT&T, LinkedIn, and Facebook regularly inundate me with the voice of the customer surveys, new products, performance surveys, surveys, surveys, surveys. These are not the only companies demanding answers and resources from customers, but these companies are especially egregious at this practice. Tell me, why does nothing ever change in customer approach, customer service, customer care, and the voice-of-the-customer always appears to fall on deaf ears?
Leadership never collects qualitative and quantitative data and then uses this information to make change, drive visible customer affecting policy shifts, or even act like the customer is worthy of being listened to. How do we, the customers know we are not being heard; the agents do not have the ability to affect change. I called Xfinity/Comcast; I have an issue, I get nowhere with the agents, but I am still expected and offered multiple times the voice-of-the-customer survey to help improve customer relations. I invest my time in completing the survey; I even indicate a return call to discuss the scores is acceptable, only later do I discover that the voice-of-the-customer data is never worked, customers are not called, and the company does not care.
If you are sending a survey out, you need to address the survey results. Publicly with your agents, transparently with your shareholders and investors, and clearly and openly with your customers. By refusing to do these things, the leadership failures in demanding customer resources to complete surveys are wasted, compounded, and the customer is listening! Worse, the customer is sharing this information with other customers and is openly looking for options to replace you and your company! By publicly claiming “customer-obsession,” “customer-centricity,” and “customer-first” propaganda (e.g., marketing promises), you are making a commitment. Failure to honor that commitment delivers a “Used Car Sales” pitch, and lawyers and politicians become more trustworthy than you and your company. Customers are tired of “Lemons” when paying for cherries; is this clear enough?
Who is your first customer?
To every person claiming the first customer is a service or product purchaser, you are WRONG! Your first customer is your employees. Yet, employee abuse remains central to employee churn. Asking your employees to “go the extra mile” for an external customer and not seeing the business first go the extra mile for them is disheartening at best to your employees.
I am intimately familiar with a well-known company, its operations, and its customer commitment. The company does an excellent job in employee relations, which leads to year-over-year success with external customers. But the company has some deep-seated problems they are working on, and because they are honestly working on these issues, I am willing to give them anonymity for their efforts. One of the most fundamental issues this company has is in product delivery; the operations in the warehouse prioritize outbound (customer shipping of products ordered) to the exclusion of quality. The products are more important than the people, which is a growing pain for this company.
By forgetting that the first customer is the employees, this group churns at phenomenal rates compared to other business units. Why? Because of the insanity of being left out of customer service. Company benefits, time-off, vacation policies, “swag,” free merchandise, etc., none of this compensates for irrational operations that fundamentally treat the employee poorly and in a confused manner. If your company is “customer-focused,” then employees are top priority, and in making them top priority, they look after your external customers more efficiently, more expertly, and they will build a fatter bottom-line through “going the extra mile.”
When was the last time your employees were honestly engaged in voice-of-the-customer surveys and results? When was the last time the employees knew they were the top priority in your business? When was the last time operational policies and procedures were adjusted to remove confusion about employee worth and value? Tell me, are your shareholders and investors treated better than your number one investor, your employees? If so, your shareholders should be raking the current leadership over the coals for robbery and theft. Reduced bottom lines because of employee treatment should be a significant issue of discussion by the shareholders and investors, for this is nothing short of robbery. You are compounding another leadership failure through employee abuse, which increases costs and lowers bottom-line performance, e.g., robbing the investor and shareholder because you have refused to provide your first customer simple customer recognition, let alone service.
Going the Extra Mile
Before a supervisor, team leader, director, or other leaders in your business organization asks for an employee to “go the extra mile,” rate that leader on this question, “Have they already walked two miles with the employee?” If not, that person is asking for the impossible. No extra efforts can or ought to be sought when leadership fails to first show and do what it takes to walk two miles with an employee.
Want to know a secret? When the leader first walks two miles with the employee, that leader never has to ask anyone to “go the extra mile,” EVER! Your best leaders, your followers, are the people who, instead of looking forward first, make it a priority to look sideways. These leaders are experts at lifting the talent needed to look forward to a higher level. Looking sideways includes value-added training programs, professional paths to progression, recognizing and praising efforts honestly and frequently, delegating assignments and tasks, and being actively engaged in delivering “customer-centricity” to the employees. As a supervisor, team lead, director, etc., your first customer is those who follow you; what have you done lately to prove customer obsession to them?
By the way, your first customer is listening, awake, and actively engaged in either growing or leaving, all based upon how you treat your first customer. I suggest taking heed of them.
If you want to be part of my dissertation research, please reach out to me using the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please help me help you and your company through value-added research.
© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the photos or images used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images. Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.