Putting Which Customer First

Managing to balance customer issues seems like an obvious skill most managers on the frontline would have down pat.  However, what happens when multiple issues happen at the same time?  How do you prioritize when you are literally faced with two customers standing in front of you with items that equally need and deserve your attention?  This moment can distinguish an average manager from a top performer.

Today at lunch I stopped by a retail establishment to buy my daughter a pogo stick.  Yes, exciting I know.  Ironically, the manager who was serving my line seemed to be on her own sort of pogo stick—bouncing from one customer to another attempting to handle it all but without full focus on any one item.  As a customer I appreciated her desire to serve, but what was sorely lacking was a deeper element of customer service.

It is like when someone is only half listening to you.  Their level of distraction can leave you feeling “less than”.  Your customer satisfaction levels suffer as well.   A manager’s day-to-day life is bursting with “to-dos” and “do-nows”.  The brand, establishment, staff, customers, and the boss all require a manager to be on their game.  Yet, there is only so much of a manager to go around along with only so much time in the day.  This is not defeatism, just fact.

Multi-unit companies put various processes and systems in place to streamline a manager’s day.  Today’s executives find themselves actually concerned about the number of items on a manager’s plate.  They’ve realized too many initiatives leave a manager pulled in so many different directions they become unsure which way to face.  The result is managers are left disoriented and ill-equipped to be noted contributors of the organization’s mission.

Ultimately, what do we want from a manager?  There is resounding agreement that the unit manager owns the customer experience and exists as the primary agent of customer satisfaction.  This is where their value comes to the forefront.  So unleash the possibilities.

Managers’ tools can serve as your catalyst.  These tools need to be in hand to focus their attention and their actions specifically at the customer objective.  They must be simple and completely about helping the manager be better.  Creating manager tools takes expertise in understanding around how the manager’s work aligns with the goals of the organization.  It cannot be created behind the curtain.

Here are a few basic helpful elements to consider when creating any manager tool that amplifies performance:

  1. Know thy customer. Ask them directly about customer satisfaction using a 3rd party. Score yourself.
    1. Hone in on key drivers. Pick 3 items to measure and move on them.  More is just too much to juggle.
    2. Empower your findings into action.
      1. Provide specific, measurable goals that are not unreachable. Wins make winners.
      2. Incentivize and reward managers around customer satisfaction scores. Positive reinforcement brings about positive results.
      3. Understand the readiness of your people to do what you ask. Being on board paddling with full intent and smiling faces makes for a faster boat of change.
      4. Put yourself in their shoes. If your managers are your best sales people and thrive in front of the customer, don’t shove them into the back office by giving them a bunch of computer-based solutions that don’t solve anything for them.
      5. Make your mission outwardly focused vs. inwardly.  It should be not about what you want for yourself but about what you’ll achieve for the customer.  Your mission will relate more in the trenches where managers and customers can co-exist in harmony.

Take the whole picture in and do something.  By tying it up in a bow, it’ll make for a better present and future for everyone involved especially the all-important customer.

Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions

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