95% of the People Who Read This Won't Get It

I have a challenge for you.

This post describes one of the biggest issues faced by customer service leaders. My prediction is that 100 percent of the people who read this will think they understand, but 95 percent actually won't.

My challenge is to prove to yourself that you're in that elusive five percent who get it. Let's start with a picture:

Photo credit: Jeff Toister

Photo credit: Jeff Toister

I took this picture on the sly.

A colleague and I were eating dinner in an airport restaurant. We had just attended what was then called the American Society for Training and Development's International Conference and Exposition. The woman in the photo had too.

I know this because of two clues.

First, you can see she's reading Keith Ferrazzi's book, Never Eat Alone. Ferrazzi had been a keynote speaker at the conference. His book revolved around the idea that the key to success was building connections with other people.

The second clue was she had the official conference tote bag at her feet. Just like about ten other people in that airport restaurant.

Look carefully and you can tell she doesn't believe what she's reading.

She might agree intellectually. It's a great concept - we can all point to important relationships in our lives that have helped us succeed. But, she wasn't living it. She sat through her entire meal without connecting with anyone else.

That's the issue faced by many customer service leaders.

We tell ourselves we're customer-focused even when we're not. We make the mistake of thinking service is easy or self-evident so we don't put in the effort. We crow about our awesome culture when it's really just an empty slogan (Exhibit A: John Stumpf).

It's why a recent Execs In The Know study found that 79 percent of executives think they're meeting the needs of their customers, but only 33 percent of customers surveyed agree.

Meanwhile, the real work of service doesn't get done. 

Leaders fail to articulate a clear customer service vision. Customers are surveyed, but the data is barely analyzed and rarely acted upon. Training is meager or ineffective. Products are defective and remain that way. Processes are broken and departments operate in silos.

My guess is you're nodding as you read this.

But, how do you know you are truly committed to serving customers? You can find out by taking the challenge.


The Challenge

This challenge consists of one simple question: 

Are you the person in the restaurant?

Obviously, I don't mean literally. I mean, is this picture a metaphor for how you approach customer service or are you fully committed?

Consider a few things before you answer. This person had made some effort. She spent time and money to travel to a conference. She was open to new ideas and struck enough by the speaker's message that she bought his book. After a long week, she was still motivated enough to start reading it immediately after attending.

It's okay to be that person. Just realize that she's not truly committed.