Most companies are pretty good at serving their customers. Yes, there it is, I’ve said it. We all have war stories about bad service here and there, but generally I see most companies as being pretty good at meeting their customer’s needs. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t see them around – the companies we deal with on a regular basis are the ones who are good enough to have lasted.
This customer service mentality is the side of the business personality that looks outward, toward the customer. It’s the side that takes pride in meeting customer expectations, in being highly accountable to promises made, answering customer calls on the first ring, showing appreciation, admitting when things didn’t go well and making them right, and in general being engaged with the idea of creating a good customer experience. This is the side of the business personality that measures everything about the customer experience, conducts focus groups, and obsesses about what’s being said about it on social media.
However, many companies – maybe yours – have a decidedly split personality. When facing outward, toward the customer, deadlines are met, projects are managed carefully, emails and phone calls are promptly returned. But this same business, when facing inward, towards one another, consistently misses deadlines, fails to respond, and lets things slide in a way that no paying customer would ever accept.
There is a ready defense for this behavior. It’s the paying customer after all who pays the bills. Without them the business would quickly fail. On the other hand, if we blow off a meeting with a co-worker, treat them disrespectfully, or simply ignore their requests for help, we’ll probably be OK – at least for a while. The paying customer always comes first, doesn’t she?
Do a thought experiment: Look at the way your business operates inwardly, and see if it matches how it operates outwardly. Do you tolerate behaviors and habits with one another that your customers would fire you for if you pointed these same behaviors toward them? Would a customer be OK with you failing to show up for a meeting, failing to meet a specific time commitment, ignoring a phone call or email, or glaring at them with disgust when you were having a bad day? Why would this behavior be OK on the inside when it’s not OK on the outside?
Serving one another as customers inside the business is more than just an empty gesture. How we serve one another inside carries over to the outside. And, it just makes your business a lot better place to work. Next time you see behavior inside your company that would alienate a paying customer, call it out. Talk about it. Ask if this behavior would be acceptable with a paying customer. If it wouldn’t fly facing outside it shouldn’t fly facing inside.
Questions from the Real World: February, 2011
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