Where Do Leadership and Customer Service Intersect?

Author:Thornell, Joe

There was an explosion of extremely poor customer service in 2017. By far, the greatest level of poor performance was accomplished by the airline travel segment which forcefully extracted a paying customer from an airplane to make room for a non-revenue-generating employee and a gate agent who was rude/obnoxious to a female paying customer and who also came dangerously close to hitting her infant with a baby stroller. There was also the case of the frozen rabbit, and the pilot intervention into a customer brawl.

The airline industry has volunteered to be front and center in these displays of very weak customer service, but they do not have the corner on the market. Remember that Wells Fargo opened accounts in their customer's names that they did not ask for and that Volkswagen falsified testing data to make their automobiles more attractive to their customers. All of this begs the question, "where does leadership intersect with customer service?"

Of late, it appears the role of leadership in these events has been to publicly admit their mistake, assume responsibility, and often lose their job. Is that what leadership is about with regards to customer service?

From simply a definition perspective, in businessdictionary.com, leadership is establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge, and methods to realize that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders. Leadership is also stepping into the breech when failure happens and accepting responsibility and fixing the issue going forward.

From the same source, the definition of customer service is all interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of the sale and thereafter. Customer service adds value to a product and builds enduring relationship.

Sometimes just relearning the definitions helps a leader refocus and engage their workforce to fix a broken or off-track process such as customer service. Hopefully, the companies mentioned above have undergone a significant emotional event through these experiences and come out the other side better prepared, trained, and more customer-focused.

Customer service is a big deal in the 21st century and...

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