Leadership Mistakes

Leadership Tips — Teach Customer Service

Tom O\’Dea asked:

If you believe that one of the primary roles of a leader is to teach those that you lead; and if you believe that your reputation for customer service can be the difference in your success or lack thereof; then it stands to reason that as a leader, you should be teaching customer service. 

Do It, and Do It Often 

Whatever vehicle you use to communicate with your people — staff meetings, town hall meetings, video addresses, or worst case, email — you can add teaching moments to your regular communications agenda.  If you want to have others help you, that’s fine.  But don’t make the mistake of simply delegating this to a staff member.  Your team needs to know that the teaching is coming from you. 

How exactly do you teach customer service?  Nothing could be easier.  Your business is giving you case studies every day, so use them.   

Story telling is so powerful, especially when the stories are true.  Use real examples, both good and bad.   The good stories represent opportunities to create a wow moment for your audience.  They hear the story, and the light bulb goes off as they realize they too can delight customers. 

The bad stories provide an opportunity for you to engage people in analyzing what happened and how it could have been better handled. 

Better Yet, The Recovery Story 

What’s a recovery story?  This one takes place in a hair salon. 

The salon was running an occasional promotion.  On slow days, the manager would put a sign outside the shop offering haircuts for 30% off.  A customer came in, got his hair cut and was erroneously charged full price by the stylist.  He should have said something, but he did not.  An hour later, he realized how upset he was and he fired off a letter to the salon owner. 

In the letter, the customer described what had happened, and concluded the letter by saying he could have gone back and made a stink.  Instead, he decided that since this business had so little integrity, he would never come back again. 

The owner investigated and found that the stylist had made an honest mistake.  So he found the customer’s phone number and called him.  He acknowledged the customer’s letter and thanked the customer for alerting him.  He then explained that the stylist had made a mistake, and apologized.  He told the customer he was sending him a full refund along with a coupon for a free cut on his next visit. 

The Lessons Learned 

The customer was surprised and not surprisingly, quite pleased.   The salon owner turned this into two key teaching points. 

First, he taught his managers that while they had the discretion to implement the 30% off sales on slow days, it was critical that together they come up with a way to execute without breaking down.  It didn’t take them long to figure out how to update their POS system to support such a sale and automatically price services correctly. 

Second, and more important from a customer service perspective, was the lesson of turning a big loss into a big win.  When a customer becomes dissatisfied enough to write a letter and say they aren’t coming back, you can bet they will be telling other people.  Bad news travels fast. 

When you can recover such a customer, you generate the opposite effect.  The customer realizes they had gone too far in their conclusions (this business had no integrity problem, they made a mistake) and he is motivated to tell positive stories about the business.  Now the customer considers this business to be a top notch customer service provider. 

Stories like this don’t get old.  Customer service provides more teaching moments than any other aspect of most businesses.  And smart leaders use those teaching moments at every opportunity.




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