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Customer Service Culture and Management

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During onsite client visits, I gain direct access to what happens inside of a service organization. One key phenomenon that I witness everywhere, regardless of the location or company size is the lack of a manager’s preparation for their weekly meetings with employees.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just agree that what I encounter is embarrassing and the cause of internal customer service problems. And these disasters are preventable.

Company culture is the result of leadership. Employees tend to follow a leader’s demeanor and when managers are ill-prepared for an employee meeting, then the company’s culture will suffer. Consider your own company and the amount of time invested in a five-year business strategy.

A strategic plan assumes best-case scenarios in terms of leadership, employee morale and effectiveness. These three attributes impact company culture either upward or downward and ineffective employee meetings hurt culture.

Peter Drucker, the famed management guru, is quoted to have said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Drucker’s message implies that the best strategic plan will fail if company culture goes south.

Managers are expected to prepare for the meetings during which important information is shared. Unfortunately, many of the managers I encounter offer a variety of excuses for why they’re not prepared for their weekly employee meetings. I’ve heard every excuse from their busy schedules to the unforeseen interruptions.

And when we consider a manager’s leadership role, being unprepared for a meeting, without an agenda and measurable project advancement timetables, only reinforces to employees that the meetings are not that important.

After all, if you’re not prepared then why should employees pay attention during your meetings or take you and the information seriously.

You see, there is a cause and effect relationship between a manager’s preparation (the cause) and whether employees view the manager’s message as important (the effect).

People tend to follow up on what they value. Unfortunately, people will skip following up on unimportant matters. Managers, by their very unpreparedness, influence whether employees view a meeting’s agenda as valuable or a waste of their time.

Employees will not always believe what they hear you say if what they SEE in terms of your consistent lack of preparedness tells them otherwise.

When employees witness their boss being unprepared – that experience diminishes that manager’s message because of first impression dominance.

First impression dominance refers to the dominating assumptions and perceptions that arise within the first few seconds of an encounter.

Why all this focus on a manager’s meeting preparedness? The answer is that a prepared-for meeting results in better-informed employees who treat the meeting’s agenda as valuable information worthy of follow up.

Remember that people tend to follow up on important matters. Improved employee follow up yields more than the obvious morale and efficiency advantages.

The real benefactors of enhanced employee follow up – internally – are your external customers. This is because your company gains the advantage of speaking in one voice with a sense of certainty and authority that is unmistakable.

Don’t let your company’s culture eat your strategic plan. Both culture and strategy should support and feed each other.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Customer Service

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