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Chris LoCurto

By

July 6, 2012

Customer Service From the Top Down

Here’s a guest post by Joshua Rivers. You can follow him on Twitter, and check him out at JoshuaRivers.net. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.

Every business has customers. As a result, meeting the needs of those customers should be a high priority. Indirect service may be the most effective way to serve those customers.

My wife worked at a children’s hospital. She loved working there. She loved the work she did. She loved being with the children and being able to help them. It was her ideal place to work.

But, she had to quit her job last fall.

Last year, my wife’s work made some pretty bad decisions. They were drastically changing the work days and hours for all of their nursing staff (including my wife). At the time, she worked three days a week from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. It worked for our family because it meant we had very minimal day care (maybe 2–3 hours a week). My wife’s new hours would either be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or vice versa. The days she worked would also change. It would not work with our family schedule.

The hospital claimed that they were making all these changes to make it better for the children. However, there was a mass exodus of good nurses (my wife included). My wife tried to work things out for a month, but to no avail.

Her new job immediately submersed her in necessary training. She was flown to the headquarters in Florida for a week (talk about suffering!) to receive detailed, specific training there. Just recently she was flown to one of their facilities in Pennsylvania to receive additional training. She is beginning school to get her RN, and they are working with her so she can have time off to attend her classes—this requires several days off and leaving around two almost every day.

They are taking care of her, and, as a result, she feels better about giving back. She deals directly with patients after surgery, so customer service is a key part of her responsibilities.

Here are some quick lessons learned about this concept:

  • Customer service flows from leadership, through employees, to customers – It is foolish for a boss to think that they can improve customer service or patient care by bypassing the employees. It is the employees who are on the front-line with the customers.
  • Happy employees make customers and bosses happy – When employees are happy, they can more easily make customers happy. When customers are happy, the bosses are happy. Isn’t it great when everyone is happy?
  • Happy employees save the company money – If you have unhappy employees, they will either leave or tear things up. If they tear things up, it costs money to replace what they damage—and usually things are more expensive the second time around. If they leave, there is the additional cost of finding and training someone new. To save your bottom line, make your employees happy!
Question: How have you tried to increase customer service through others?
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  • chrischdunn

    I have a slightly different tale.  I was in highschool working as a busboy at a local restaurant in South Haven, MI.  I busted my tail and was always looking for something to do to make sure I was worth my pay.  One night, I was picking plates up off a table when one of the customers yelled at me.  He must have been having a bad day, but he laid into me.  My manager saw this happen and came over and told him she would not allow one of her employees to be treated that way.  She told him he could stay but he would have to treat her people with respect.  She already had my loyalty and commitment, but after that moment it “grew by three sizes” as Dr. Seuss would say.  I still remember her and that moment.

    • http://marcsviewonstuff.wordpress.com/ marcpekny

      @chrischdunn Now that is a boss with some serious GUTS. I love that!

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @chrischdunn You don’t hear too much about that, especially at a restaurant. Good job for you trying to have a good work ethic as a teenager, too!

  • Penelopedcdkui

    @lilykreitinger http://t.co/pBkwA7kF

  • mondster

    This is becoming more & more critical.  With the evolution of social media and sharing everything down to what someone had for breakfast, customer service has to be spot on just to maintain an average online reputation.  Customer feedback is no longer isolated to word of mouth… now they have a platform!

    • JoshuaWRivers

      @mondster Very true! Negative feedback is only a click away from becoming viral.

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

    What a great concept, if the leader cares, the team cares… Such a difficult idea to grasp in many organizations, unfortunately. I’ve learned my best leadership and customer service lessons from leaders who were not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get the work done along with the team. They showed passion and firm belief in what they did and that excitement trickled down to the team.  It was working with purpose, not focusing on profit only or what is “convenient” for upper management according to their golf schedule. 
     
    We have to bring the human side back in business. We are not numbers on the payroll but individuals who seek fulfillment in what we do. It breaks my heart when I read statistics of how many people are unhappy at work. We spend 12+ hours of your day in work-related activities… why do we have to suffer through it??  
     
    And don’t even get me started about the healthcare industry.  My dad had his share of hospital stays over the last 8 years of his life and I have to say the way he was treated as a patient was torture on top of the pain of the illness.  Hospital staff was definitely overworked and underpaid and had zero motivation to provide quality service. Hats off to compassionate doctors and nurses that know how to take good care of their patients!! I’m glad your wife is happy where she is now Josh, thanks for a great post.

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @lilykreitinger Thanks for sharing your story, Lily. I’m glad you were able to see and be apart of a great environment like that.
       
      It is sad that many places in healthcare have such bad reputations. For the average person, thinking about a doctor visit equals wait time. It’s even worse if you multiply that by ER.
       
      We should hopefully learn from the bad experiences and strive to take care of others better.

  • https://twitter.com/mattmcwilliams2 MattMcWilliams2

    The two best examples of doing it the right way that I have seen came within a few days of each other when I went to work for my previous company.
     
    I was the new big shot and really thought highly of myself. When I first started, they were remodeling to make more office space so four of us shared a large room together. Me, my two direct reports, and the CFO.
     
    Late one day I heard him answer the phone and clearly he was confused. Turns out the guy calling had called him to ask him how to do something on the computer. We were an educational DVD company. This guy literally picked a number online and picked an extension. He got Eric. Eric looked things up on Google, walked him through it, and spent over 10 minutes helping him.
     
    I could not believe it. I asked him why he did it and he told me that we are in a service industry and can’t pick and choose who we serve and how we serve them. What goes around, comes around, right?
     
    The second thing happened right after that when we got a new shipment of boxes. I was on the phone and could not help but later found out that literally everyone in the company, CEO, CFO, receptionist, you name it…all of them were unloading boxes.
     
    Both of them showed me the right customer service attitude. They led from the top.
     
    I learned from them and when I moved to a different company, I set a strict policy of never talking poorly about any customer. If the leadership moans and complains about a customer, then why should your front line people care about them?
     
    The words of leaders are powerful…watch them carefully.

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @MattMcWilliams2 Those are some great examples. Not just of taking care of employees to empower them to provide great customer service, but also to simply provide that customer service by example!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ lilykreitinger

       @MattMcWilliams2 Like, like, like!  Matt, what awesome ways to serve a customer!! That leaves room for zero excuses for the team not to do the same!
       

  • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

    Enjoyed the post Josh. I have an example from the what NOT to do side. In my current position there isn’t the strong leadership from those up the chain of command. This makes it REALLY hard for me to provide great customer. Service to those I work with. This is because I don’t know if management will back up what I agree to do for the customer, or leave me hanging out in the wind. It’s hard to serve a customer whe you aren’t sure if you’ll have the backing of the company. Thanks for the post!

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @Skropp It really is difficult! I hope things get better for you.

      • http://hardandsimple.blogspot.com/ Skropp

        @JoshuaWRivers As do I, thank you. It’s great for illustration purposes though, haha

  • http://marcsviewonstuff.wordpress.com/ marcpekny

    From my end as a team leader, I am empowering my crew to challenge existing processes that lack value and bring them back to me to run up the chain

    It gave them a real shot in the arm, especially since the internal customers they support concur that some of our processes lack value at times.

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @marcpekny Great job. Keep on encouraging them. It will definitely pay off.

      • http://marcsviewonstuff.wordpress.com/ marcpekny

        @JoshuaWRivers Thank you for the encouragement. Doing the opposite to me sounds like something just north of hell. :)

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ JoelFortner

    I love this, Joshua!  Strong leadership creates strong teams, which serve their customers with excellence.  When I go to a business and receive bad customer service, you know what I often think about?  How bad their leadership may be.  Great post!

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @JoelFortner Exactly right, Joel. The sad thing is that the leadership in those places don’t even realize that the problem starts with them.

  • JoshPalcic

    The company I work for has been getting the reputation that therapists don’t “stay.” This has created a culture where people assume they will have to leave to find satisfaction. I think there are some good opportunities in this company to develop the program I work in. I have been attempting to connect with one of the remaining therapists on a daily basis to share the vision for her to eventually join me in this program of intensive therapy and show her how she can continue to learn while in her current program. It will require an increased available caseload to justify another therapist and development of her skill. I have committed to working with her for training.
    Too much time without face to face contact, and I can see that she begins to get frustrated and takes even more energy to bring her level of excitement back. I know when I lose some of my passion for where I work, the children I work with can definitely sense it and their therapy sessions are not as successful. I am hoping that my efforts will keep her focused on our bigger vision that will 1) maintain her passion which will lead to daily customer service of each client and 2) keep her employed here so her entire caseload is not placed on hold until a replacement is found! 

    • JoshuaWRivers

       @JoshPalcic Sounds like an uphill battle, but keep it up! Sometimes you have to start with building up one person. Then you can have the opportunity to better reach the others.

    • http://ChrisLoCurto.com ChrisLoCurto

       @JoshPalcic I would also look at doing personality profiles (DISC) and even values profiles. She probably needs a lot of human interaction to keep her going. 

      • JoshPalcic

         @ChrisLoCurto Have you already met her? :) She definitely needs much human contact throughout the day.