Service Statesmanship

Serving As A Customer Service Role Model

Why do some companies seem to exude stellar customer service at all levels, when others only offer satisfying service on a sporadic basis?

Outstanding customer service appears to be inculcated in numerous organizations, and dismally lacking in others. What is the underlying factor that determines whether excellent service delivery is a cultural characteristic of an organization? I think the root cause is the concept of Service Statesmanship.

One of the best definitions of Service Statesmanship came from a CEO who said, “When a fish stinks, it stinks from the head.” What he meant, of course, is that service excellence is first and foremost the responsibility of managers and senior executives. Staff, by themselves, cannot ensure excellent service.

After all, when service “stinks,” it stinks from the top of the organization right through to the bottom rungs. To stop the rot managers and senior executives need to become Service Statesmen.

When the fish “doesn’t stink,” managers are usually doing two things. They are establishing service quality and service excellence as the overriding goals of their business units, and they are serving as role models who translate these core values into exemplary personal behavior. These are the key duties of anyone who aspires to be a Service Statesman.

As a role model, a Service Statesman:

  • Constantly reinforces the service message to staff, colleagues and peers.
  • Constantly communicates the organization’s service performance to all staff.
  • Holds regular service progress reviews:
    • To review performance against goals.
    • To discuss how to remedy situations where standards are not being met.

 

Serving As A Role Model

A Service Statesman is a role model, constantly reinforcing the organization’s key service messages and service values.

Having established quality as a high-priority objective, Service Statesmen will literally take this company goal and run with it. They will inspire and cajole other managers to sign up for the program. They will reward their own staff for outstanding service performances. And, many Service Statesmen will adamantly insist that every executional detail within his or her business unit contributes to every customer’s perception of quality service.

This last trait sometimes leads employees to think their managers are “a little crazy about service.” This is not bad. Actually, this is good!

The manager who holds up introduction of a new product because the frontline staff have not been fully informed or trained on the product is a Service Statesman. The unit head helping his business unit work out of a processing backlog is a Service Statesman. The branch manager who regularly spot checks account applications for accuracy is a Service Statesman.

A Service Statesman will be seen by staff as constantly engaged and interested in improving service delivery.

At one major utility, employees were shocked to see their CEO bicycle to the site of emergency weekend repairs to “spur the troops on” and to motivate those working on the problem. Here was a smart Service Statesman at work, capitalizing on the value of a dramatic gesture and its rapid incorporation into company folklore.

Service Statesmen typically work hard to ensure all service employees correctly interpret decisions affecting operating conditions. During interviews at institutions renowned for service excellence, a large number of managers volunteered examples when they personally explained service policy changes far down the chain of command, even at stressful times on major internal changes.

Seasonal peaks, a new product introduction, or customers leaving for a major competitor ─ any of these planned or unplanned events can swamp employees with extraordinary service burdens. Certainly managers should give employees all the practical assistance possible during such stressful periods, but at the same time managers must reinforce the organization’s corporate service values and reward peak or superior individual performance, especially those performed in times of duress.

In short, managers who desire to be Service Statesmen must:

  • take a personally active role in building service excellence into the organization,
  • establish service excellence and quality customer service as the over-riding goal in their business units, and
  • serve as a role model through exemplary personal behavior at all times.

Service quality delivery has strategic importance for the long-term success of any business. Excellent service is a critical means by which any organization can differentiate itself from competition. (Which makes me wonder why more organizations do not focus on this issue.)

Everybody in the organization needs to focus on providing good service, not just frontline customer contact personnel. When such efforts are consistently and constantly led from the top, one is most likely to find a culture of service statesmanship inbred and ingrained at all levels of the organization. One is also likely to find satisfied customers repeating their business.

That combination ─ excellent service delivery and satisfied repeat customers ─ is definitely a surefire formula for long-term, sustainable, profitable business growth.

KEY POINT:  Service Statesmen take an active role in building service excellence into their organizations and constantly reinforce the organization’s key service messages and service values to staff, colleagues, and peers.

TAKING ACTION:  which departments or business units in your organization are known for stellar service delivery? Which are not? How can the learning, ideas, techniques, and culture of the outstanding units be transplanted into other units?

Who are the Service Statesmen in your organization? What do they have in common? How can their passion for outstanding service delivery be leveraged and spread throughout the organization? How can they “infect” their colleagues with their spirit and zeal?

At what level of your organization does the enthusiasm and fanaticism for service delivery seem to come to an end? At what level of the organization is only “lip service” paid to the topic of service excellence? How can the need for organization-wide service statesmanship be communicated to the executives at these levels? (Hint: forward them a copy of this week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo).

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.