Most of us acknowledge the importance of supervisors modeling the behaviors expected from frontline hourly-paid employees. Intuitively, this just makes sense and is reinforced with platitudes such as “Actions speak louder than words” and “Walk the talk!”
Even so, this leadership principle and management expectation is often neglected. Consider this comment from a blog reader:
“Last night I checked into a full-service hotel. The clerk was young/newer yet was truly committed to ensure that she gave me her all. She was earnest and genuine in wanting me to have a great check-in experience. She had trouble finding a room for me and wanted to meet my in-the-moment realization that a high floor and view was more important than a King-size bed (which I had requested in my reservation). Where it fell apart was when she asked for help from her manager because he came over to help in his very ‘I have role power’ kind of way and didn’t look at me/speak to me and it derailed the spirit of service that she created.”
Unbeknownst to many supervisors, they work among a secret society of boss watchers. These are the frontline employees who are always watching supervisors for cues on how they should act. And they don’t miss much. As Bob Farrell, author of Give ‘Em The Pickle, is fond of saying, “What they see, is what you’ll get.”
If employees see their supervisors neglecting to smile, make eye contact, and add enthusiasm to their voices during interactions with customers, then they too may view these behaviors as optional. Perhaps the customer service training they attended last week was just another initiative mandated by corporate headquarters?
If employees observe supervisors ignoring ringing phones, then they too may neglect ringing phones. Maybe the customer covenant outlined in the company mission statement is not as important as it seemed during new-hire orientation?
And if employees witness their supervisors rolling their eyes after a disagreement with a customer, then they too may feel justified in treating customers disrespectfully. Clearly, the banner in the employee cafeteria proclaiming, “The Customer is King!” is just a slogan.
Great service starts with great leadership. If you are in a leadership role, it is absolutely necessary that you model the standards and expectations that are communicated to your frontline staff. Whether you do or don’t, they are watching.
Illustration: Aaron McKissen