“Let Me Speak to Your Supervisor”

Guest post by John Green

Does customer service have to be a thing of the past? Even the Superbowl ad from CarMax, an online used car buying service, brought to light the strong and effective customer service standards we used to have. In the CarMax ad, a man can be seen pulling into a gas station where a 1950s type service team approaches his car. He is being treated to window washing, a look under the hood, and a car cleaning; all the while the man believes he is being carjacked!

As a consumer of products and services in today’s contemporary society, I am frequently frustrated by the seemingly impossible task of getting good customer care. As a matter of comparison, I find myself being overjoyed when I receive service that would have been considered standard not so long ago. Have Americans lowered their standards? Or has the current service “crisis” shaped our expectations and created this customer care void?

Having worked for more than 20 years managing all levels of a call center organization, and through the last decade as a performance consultant/coach, the key thing to understand is that frontline supervisors/coaches play a critical role in the success of the organization. I know that sounds like a clichéd platitude—everyone knows that coaching and developing frontline employees is the most important part of the front-line supervisor’s job, but how they go about their daily management activities and more importantly how they engage and observe their front line employees is key to the level of care their customers receive.

The following questions can help any manager assess where service fixes are needed and where excellent customer care should be celebrated:

  • How many times a day do you hear these comments/requests from “valued” customers?
    • “Let me speak to your supervisor!”
    • “Give me someone who can actually help me.”
    • “You keep saying you are “sorry,” but are not offering any resolution to my problem.”
    • “You sound like a robot—I don’t think you are hearing me.”
  • How many “take-over” calls do your frontline supervisors handle on a daily basis?
  • Are the customer requests that become escalated of an unusual nature? Do they require specific technical knowledge or a level of authority to resolve?
  • What could your frontline coaches be doing in the time they are spending in customer escalations?
  • Have you built an entire escalation or customer care unit to handle those “difficult “customer requests?
  • Do your frontline coaches complain about how “busy’ they are yet never seem to get to do their “real” job?
  • How is the frontline coach’s job described by your HR group? What is the primary responsibility of this role?
  • How much time does a coach spend in “coaching” their employees on a daily basis?
  • How are frontline coaches supported in your organization?

If the answers to any of the above question are troubling or cause you to question your training or support, perhaps your coaching model is not producing the results you need. Through behavioral coaching, organizations can not only optimize the customer experience, they can also create a performance culture where people want to do their work, and do it well. Building coaching fluency in an organization is hard work but has an exponential impact on key business results.

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.