CEOs and Customer Service
The majority of companies are aiming to deliver good customer service. After all, it is a well-proven fact that poor service loses customers, costs more in putting things right and damages your brand. So give people a good service that exceeds their expectations and it will directly improve your bottom line.
It all sounds very simple, but where it gets complicated is making customer service consistently excellent every time. In huge organisations with hundreds or even thousands of customer-facing staff you need to put in place a customer-centric culture, along with the processes and technology to ensure it is delivered by everyone. This combination of leadership, inspiration and resources has to come from the top, with the CEO or managing director taking responsibility for customer service.
But obviously strategy and inspiration can only go so far – and also need to be backed up by first hand experience of what is actually happening in a business. So it is no surprise to see more and more CEOs getting directly involved in customer service. Carphone Warehouse chairman Charles Dunstone used to make his email address available for customers to speak to him directly, and last year utility boss Kevin McCullough of npower went undercover at one of his contact centres to see what conditions were like at the sharp end.
However there’s obviously a limit to what a CEO on his own can do as two recent examples from the US show. Incoming BestBuy CEO Hubert Joly spent most of his first week on the job working as a salesman in one of the consumer electronics giant’s US stores and is using the experience to help improve customer service. Meanwhile David Marcus, new president of PayPal became directly involved in a customer complaint, taking ownership of the problem by stepping in when customer service failed.
While these initiatives hopefully lead to happier customers the problem is that they simply don’t scale. There’s no way that a CEO can be involved in every customer complaint – they have neither the time nor the training, and the risk is that you create an extremely expensive new silo as everyone flocks to the top with their complaints. What CEOs need to do is use their experience to understand what customers want, underpin their strategy and then lead the organisation to make sure that customer service teams have the resources and training to deliver on that vision. That way customers will feel valued and receive the skilled attention they deserve.