The other day I found myself with writers block. My goal was to write about effective leadership and how it translates into organizational customer service success. Then two things happened: I heard on the news that Spirit Airlines was going to start charging customers for carryon luggage, and I read Mila D'Antonio's blog post "Will Spirit Airlines' Passengers Sacrifice Service for Cheap Flights"? Suddenly the writer's block went away; it became clear how to explain that effective leadership does directly translate to organizational customer service success.
By now, the average consumer has come to the realization that as the price of airline travel continues to increase, the level of services and perks passengers will receive may decrease. And, if you are like me, you can adapt to some changes, like no longer getting a blanket and pillow or no longer being served the pathetic little sandwiches the size of a dinner roll that has been sitting for a few days. I can live with that. But what I will not settle for is less than the expectation of an exceptional customer service experience. That is not negotiable.
As I read Mila's blog post, I was shocked to read about Sprit's CEO, Ben Baldanza, appalling response to an email a customer had written complaining of their poor customer service experience. What surprised me most was Baldanza's oversight: When a customer actually takes the time to complain, it presents an opportunity to put your leadership skills to good use. Considering that the majority of customers will not complain -- they simply take their business elsewhere -- I think it is safe to say that Baldanza does not understand the concept of effective leadership. He responded that the airline owes the complaining passengers nothing, and went as far as to imply that service does not matter as long as the product is cheap.
Talk about a leader demonstrating how not to effectively lead! It is a well-known fact that a company'culture starts at the top; when the CEO of a company does not see value in customer service, the chances that the staff will work hard to deliver it is slim to none. We have all seen companies that have positively set the tone for customer service success, and much of that is attributed to the fact that it starts at the top. If you don't believe me, look at the leadership of a few well-known companies, such as Zappos.com, Walt Disney World, and Southwest Airlines.
Leaders working toward customer service success should consider the following do's and don'ts:
- Realize that customer service is the one differentiator that makes good companies great companies
- Bear in mind that business cannot survive without customers
- Remember that customer service success starts with the person at the top demonstrating a commitment to customer service success
- Keep in mind that your competitors will love your customers if you don't
- Assume that people will buy your product or service just because it is cheaper than the others
- Presume that if you say "I you don't care; tell the world how bad we are" that people won't take you up on it
- Believe that once you have lost customers, they will come running back to you
- Forget that an unhappy customer will tell more people about their a bad experience than they will the good ones -- and they will tell everyone they know
As the price for services and conveniences continues to rise and companies look for more ways to do more with less, leaders have one low-cost competitive advantage: to set the tone that customer service is the one differentiator that delivers big returns.
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About the Author: Patricia L, Jackson is a leadership and organizational strategist, founder and president of Xpect Results, and author of the upcoming book, Doing the Opposite; Insights for New Leadership Success.