March 29, 2010 | cwinters

Customers Really Don’t Come First…..But Don’t Say That to Your Customers

Last week I had the privilege of moderating a panel at a seminar by The Conference Board on the customer experience. It was a great conference with leaders from iconic service and experience organizations like Disney, Starbucks and the Girl Scouts.

Our session was about creating a culture for service, and our panelists provided some great insights into this critical subject matter.

Stan Hart of Ritter & Associates talked about the importance of measurement in order to translate the language of the importance of service into action at all levels of the organization.

Ed Reilly of the American Management Association provided some great context around the reason that service and customer service has been elevated to a C-level imperative, and provided great guidance on how to provide the leadership and training that “walks the talk.”

For me the proverbial “a-ha” moment came during a session led by Michael Chen, CEO of GE Commercial Finance. He talked about the 4 I’s of creating a culture for success, and reminded us of the window of Batman’s girlfriend who told us (in Batman Returns) that actions are more important than intentions. He also said “Customers don’t come first – your employees do. Treat your employees like customers, and they will treat your customers like royalty.”

It’s great to hear that coming from a CEO, because this simple truth is so often forgotten as companies become entangled in creating measurement protocols, rolling out CRM programs and otherwise focusing their customer service resources externally. Your employees are the single greatest asset you have in achieving customer satisfaction – they impact every step in the process. And the power of social media means that you are only as good as the worst decisions of a single employee. Just ask Domino’s – who found itself battling a massive reputational threat after a couple of part time employees posted some distasteful video on YouTube.

Carreen Winters can be reached at cwinters@mww.com

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