You want employees to feel good to be working as part of a team that is working together – and everyone is improving. Many managers would be surprised to learn how little their employees believe management is walking the talk.

You can quickly scan the internet and find thousands of articles on leadership. Hundreds of thousands of terabytes of data on the subject are available. Why then are we still seeing fundamental leadership issues?

"Leaders have to be the change they want to see."

Whether Bruce Lee or Gandi said it first, it's a powerful metaphor for leaders. Yeah, I know, it sounds like a cliche statement, but a modeled behavior makes this a reality. You can't fake it with lots of words or bravado. You have to walk the talk.

I helped a group establish a renewed mission and vision for their company. First, we had to talk through how they created their first set of statements, how they outlined the behaviors they expected staff to have, and then how they communicated this to their entire organization.

Previously, they discussed their competition many times but tended to over-analyze how they compare to the other companies. They were trying to be just like the other companies their customers touch instead of understanding how they made the customers feel and replicating the same feelings from their organization. Once everyone recognized this, it started a whole new discussion. You just can't put words on paper and expect everyone to automatically adopt them into day-to-day behaviors.

Collaboration Over Competition

Every time a customer comes in contact with your company, you have the opportunity to create value by managing these touch points. These "touch points" of interactions form the impressions of your business. Every front-line employee has to walk the talk because hundreds and even thousands of these touch points happen daily. Nearly all of them are manageable by leaders and create coachable moments.

Specific customer service behaviors should be in your mission statement and your employee's job descriptions. When you include these into training sessions, you begin integrating them into the hearts and minds of your employees. When it is trained in employees and in their job descriptions, they remember it and work towards it. These ideals aren't just going to happen by chance; they must be planned for.

There is a lesson on the importance of having things detailed, organized, fast service, doing what we tell the customer, etc. If we take care of our customers, they will take care of us. That is such a simple statement, but it has far-reaching consequences in the business.

Remove Pass the Buck Bill

Nothing upsets a customer more than having an employee tell them to see someone else in the business that created the problem. Putting a customer on hold only to wait and wait for the next person in line to start the conversation all over again doesn't make those enduring experiences customers expect today. I call those employees, Pass the Buck Bill.

Passing on the responsibility to another employee or department is a common occurrence, yet; it drives customers away and makes your company just like all the other average ones out there.

Can These Touch Points Be Managed? Yes, They Can!

Each employee is a manager of customer relations. Even the janitor, because they come in contact with a customer, so they create an impression of good or bad service. Everyone needs to focus on the customer's needs even if they don't deal with or come in contact with the customer. Even a ticked-off customer is everyone's responsibility. The more you can include your employees in this leadership role, they are more likely will become committed to doing an excellent job.

Every Customer is Heard Through Many Ears

As a leader, you'll sometimes get "employee ears" telling you all kinds of negative rhetoric about one department or the other. Someone in one department hears a customer say something about another department, etc. It is difficult to listen to these negative comments and not do something, but at the same time, you have to become aware that there are three sides to every story.

Implementing cross-departmental meetings to discuss customer service starts to create a deeper understanding of individual responsibility.

The idea of having different groups together within the business and discussing "how do we rate today on a scale of one to ten" starts the internal conversations about improving customer service. If one group says they are a seven at greeting customers with a smile, then ask why. This opens the discussion about how to get better tomorrow. Even if you start this out as once a week or once a month, it gives the employees their chance to have their say and make it more personal. This whole process intentionally gives them the power to try to improve.

It would be nice to have this just naturally happen between staff, but that's not the reality. A leader has to set the tone for customer service. The leader has to walk the talk of leadership and be the change they want to see.