In the area of safety management, one mantra that has worked very effectively for supervisors is "never walk past a safety breach."
Similarly, supervisors and managers could well apply an equally important message “never walk past poor internal or external service.”
In a previous article, Inside the goldfish bowl I highlighted that everything a manager does is magnified, however this time, it is what the manager doesn’t do that is highlighted.
If the manager witnesses a staff member delivering poor service, chances are that other staff members have witnessed the same event.
What happens next is that other staff watch for a reaction from the boss.
If she or he continues on their way, taking no action or offering no response, it sends a very powerful message to everyone about what’s important and what’s not important to this manager.
Word will spread quickly. For some staff, this will be a source of great relief that they no longer need to worry too much about their service delivery standards.
Others will become disheartened by seeing a manager apparently take no action over this sub-standard performance and they will lose respect for the manager.
New managers sometimes find this a revelation.
Management actions impact the perception of their followers and management inaction also impacts this perception.
Unfortunately, this is only part of the dilemma. The other key dimension is the role model displayed by the manager.
What do they do when confronted by a customer, how do they answer the phone, how supportive are they of other people who deal with customers face-to-face, and so on?
Each of these questions highlights the relentless nature of the supervisory role and the intensity required on each agenda, (in this case customer service), by the manager in order to implement the style and behaviours they seek to deliver.
Some emphasis has been placed here on internal as well as external service.
The adage “if you are not serving a customer your job is to serve someone who is” applies universally.
It emphasises that we should afford each other the same level of respect and responsiveness we would give to an external customer.
This helps to maintain a positive internal climate and discourages internal departments from developing an adversarial or compliance-only approach to delivering for the whole organisation.
The same message applies to the finance manager who witnesses one of their staff criticising a colleague in another department because they haven’t filled in the correct form.
Their response to this poor internal service will be insightful to all those watching from the sidelines.
One small step in the next 24 hours
Start with your own performance; reflect on your service standards for internal and external customers. What could you do to better role model the values and service behaviours you want to see in the organisation?
Now deliver on this promise by genuinely displaying outstanding service and by being seen to deliver outstanding service. Once your role model is established, your positive and negative feedback to others will be received more positively.
Next, watch out for both good and bad service being delivered to customers, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the organisation. Once you see this service delivery, respond appropriately to ensure all staff are aware of your service priorities.