My customer service philosophy is predicated on the truth that exceptional customer service is always voluntary. Employees don’t have to deliver it, and most don’t. But what do employees have to do? They have to execute mandatory, assigned job functions (duties and tasks associate with their job roles). Employees must possess adequate job knowledge and demonstrate sufficient job skills in order to reliably execute a series of assigned transactions. As a result, these employees are competent or capable. So what? Being capable is not enough!
In order to consistently delight customers, employees must be made aware of the totality of their job roles – which consists of BOTH job functions (duties and tasks associated with their job roles) AND job essence (their highest priority at work, which may be to delight customers and/or create Promoters of the company’s products/services).
The vast majority of employees across industries have no idea about the job essence dimension of their job roles. Instead, they focus on what they are acutely aware of: job function. The result is dispassionate, transactional customer service quality whereby each customer is treated like the one before until the employee’s next break or the end of another monotonous shift…
Whenever I ask five employees with the same job role, individually, “Would you describe for me, from your perspective, what you do – what your job entails?” 80 percent of their responses match those of their peers. And their descriptions are almost always exclusively comprised of job functions. Next, when I follow up with a second question, “What is your highest priority at work?”, 80 percent of their responses differ (usually after a long pause spent looking at the floor and/or scratching their head). This is telling.
In other words, there’s often little confusion about WHAT to do and HOW to do it (and, by extension, the great majority of employees across industries are competent and capable of executing their assigned duties and tasks). But there’s significant ignorance about WHY employees do WHAT they do HOW they do it.
Earlier this year, I worked with a client at a $1B company who wanted to know how aware his company’s leadership team was of job essence (employees’ highest priority at work) and the organization’s purpose. When asked to record it on an index card, less than two percent of the 222 managers in attendance could recall the one-sentence corporate mission statement. And, on a second index card, they largely described the totality of their job roles (86 percent) in terms of job function, with little attention paid to job essence. There are widely cited Bain and Company statistics revealing that while 80 percent of big companies surveyed rated their customer service quality as “superior”, only 8 percent of these companies’ customers agreed with them.
The cure for ignorance is awareness. Before things will change in any enduring way, employees must first be made aware of the totality of their job roles – which includes both job function AND job essence. Only then will they be equipped with the awareness needed to reflect their organization’s purpose, in words and actions.
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Illustration credit: Maha Mohtaseb