Mark Sanborn in his book entitled: You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader talks about the correlation between leadership and customer service. Sanborn says:
Several years ago, I experienced an unfortunate breakdown in service with my insurance broker, whom I had used for many years. It was serious enough for me to escalate my complaint to one of the owners of the company. To my surprise, he expressed complete disregard for my situation. Offended, I decided to take my business elsewhere.
But I never did. What held me back was what I call “the hassle factor.” I had several policies in place that were brokered by this insurance provider, and changing policies would cause more hassle than it was worth. I figured when each policy came up for renewal, I would shop for another insurance company at that time.
As fate would have it, something happened to one of my vehicles. In order to submit a claim, I was forced to call the bro kerage company I had come to dislike so greatly. The customer-service rep who previously handled my account was gone, and the woman who drew my number was named Theresa.
I was polite but direct when she and I spoke. “Look,” I said, “I imagine you can tell from my records that my experiences with your firm haven’t been good. If it weren’t for the hassle of switching policies in effect, I’d take all my business elsewhere and never do business with your company again. It isn’t any thing personal. This is the first time you and I have spoken. But you need to know where I’m coming from.”
Theresa listened attentively and floored me with her response. “Mr. Sanborn,” she said, “I don’t know all that happened to you, but I can understand that you are upset about your past dealings with us. I can’t control what happened in the past, but I assure you of this: If you continue to do business with us, I will personally assist you and make sure that nothing like that happens again.” That was several years ago. My policies came up for renewal, but I never left, thanks to the personal leadership exhibited by Theresa. In her thoughtful, direct way, Theresa increased what I call ROI: No, not her company’s “return on investment” (although she did that, too). I’m referring to Relationships, Outcomes, and Improvements.
This is why there is a correlation between leadership and customer service.
Now listen to another story this time once more from Mark Sanborn.
Sanborn says: I was famished. I had fasted for a medical procedure that was scheduled for early morning; in addition to being hungry, I was dying for my morning jump start of caffeine. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks located just around the corner from the hospital, so I picked up a cappuccino to go.
There was a popular deli nearby. I knew from previous experience that the food was good, so I parked and went inside with my just-started Starbucks cappuccino. “One for breakfast,” I said to the hostess. Seeing my Starbucks cup, she rather sternly replied, “We don’t allow outside food or beverages in the restaurant. You’ll either have to down it or leave it at the counter.”
I wasn’t about to discard my three-dollar cappuccino, so I decided to take my coffee and money elsewhere.
Her curt challenge to my not-purchased-there coffee felt like a personal rebuke. I could empathize with a business owner who wanted to sell his or her own coffee, but I had already purchased mine elsewhere. I was more than willing to spend $10 for breakfast, but the restaurant, by requiring that I dispense of my recently purchased Starbucks cappuccino, ended up with nothing and lost me permanently as a customer.
Upset at how I was treated, I called my brother Shawn, who is a successful restaurant owner and operator. After explaining the scenario, I asked for his opinion on what had happened. He saw an easy solution: “She should have said, `We don’t allow outside food or beverages, so let me pour your drink into one of our cups after I seat you.’ No competitor’s coffee cup would be on the table, you would keep your beverage, and they would get to keep the money you spent on breakfast.”
Why didn’t she think about that? Because she was blindly enforcing the restaurant’s policy without much regard for the effect it had on its customers. By not choosing to lead or influence the situation positively so that we both could win, she influenced negatively and lost a customer. This kind of behavior happens every day in business and in life: The woman who refuses to shop at a department store because she has been ignored or treated rudely. The curt waiter, the rude store manager…in each case, someone dropped the leadership ball.
One simple sentence could have earned that deli $1,500 a year-the cost of my breakfast three times a week over the next year. That would have been a pretty good return on investment.
There is a correlation between leadership and customer service. And it’s as simple as doing unto others as you want others to do to you.