Your business seems to be doing well, but customer service continues to fall short of expectations. You’ve brought in specialists to provide consumer-oriented training for your front-line employees. That shows slight improvement before slipping back to before training levels. You’ve analyzed products and systems and virtually everything else you can think of to evaluate, but nothing changes.
What if management is the problem?
The answer lies in being able to step back and view your operation from an outside, third party perspective. The hard part of doing this is removing any emotional attachment you may have to the members of your team. You need to analyze your management staff from the viewpoint of a potential buyer for your business, and be critical.
Whom would you keep? Which management staff would you let go if you knew everything a prospective buyer sees?
Management can get complacent. Team members may believe they have so much tenure that they’re beyond getting fired. They may be family or think of themselves as your friend, and bosses don’t fire friends, do they?
Management, like most employees, tend to resist change. Remember the adage: The only thing that’s permanent is change. The economy, consumer buying trends, market conditions, product features, disposable income levels, and virtually everything else in life changes. Evaluate how your management team has changed with the times. Has it?
Let’s look at an example pertaining to customer service. Assume your heating and cooling company employees are required to wear uniforms with the company logo, shirts tucked in, and a name badge to identify themselves to a customer. They are also supposed to put on shoe covers before they enter a consumer’s home. That’s the protocol.
Now assume a supervisor tags along on a home repair visit and tells the technician to skip the shoe covers because “we need to get in, get the job done, and get out quickly.” On subsequent calls, the technician foregoes the shoe covers on the assumption management thinks it’s okay. It’s acceptable behavior now. Then a customer complains about their soiled carpet.
Is it the technician’s fault? Or the supervisor’s? Or is it the company’s?
If you have all the facts, you begin to look at other short cuts the supervisor is taking. You wonder if his reports are accurate. Is he padding his expense report?
The protocol in this example was in place for a reason: Keeping customers happy. Deviating from it is unacceptable from a manager if the company expects front line employees to adhere to it.
The level of responsibility starts at the top. You, if you are the business owner, have the ultimate responsibility for every decision that’s made in your company. Yes, you need to delegate as much as you can to people you can trust, but the weight always comes down on your shoulders.
Always be willing, and able, to step back and take a hard look at your business. Do you have the right people in place? Can they be trusted to follow through and make the right decisions?
If you have a hard time separating yourself from your operations, that’s an excellent reason to bring in a professional business consulting firm such as Brand Irons. Consultants can often address issues by talking things over in a phone conversation. The key is to be open and honest with your consultant, lest they give you bad advice.