Monday, March 18, 2024

Some bosses lead, some bosses blame

Bosses make great CX a central part of strategy and mission. Bosses set standards at the top of organizations. Bosses recruit, train, and deploy employees to face customers. Bosses decide how much to spend to make things better. Bosses design processes. Bosses create response and recovery mechanisms. Bosses motivate employees to care about what happens to customers. - Sunny Bindra, What’s really wrong with customer experience? The bosses…

When the bottom line is at stake, bosses can either elevate the CX game or they can plunge the whole organisation into the ground. When the boss's fate is tied to the bottom line, he will either lead from the front or he will find scapegoats to sacrifice. It all depends on what the incentives are, doesn't it?

I have been fortunate to witness the leadership styles of several bosses at my place of work. Some were very inspirational. Many are professional scapegoat hunters. One of my favourite bosses took the time to listen to our clients' complaints, and then she would sit with us and work out why the client had a poor CX, and on the basis of that process, proposed a solution. Sometimes the solution worked. Sometimes it was a trial-and-error process until it was solved. She was firm with us, but she never shifted the blame onto us. She led us to do some amazing things, especially in designing a client management system that I have taken with me in subsequent posts.

My least favourite boss refused to take responsibility, shirked difficult decisions, and refused to discuss his proposals with anyone. Not his direct reports. Not the rank and file. Not even his peers in the organisation. He was so busy covering his ass that even obvious things fell through the cracks. What's worse, he identified a few pet employees whom he favoured over other, and they became his snitches - not for quality control purposes, but to weed out the frustrated malcontents who desired to do better and be better. Under him, CX was no longer a priority; all that mattered was that the boss was not blamed for anything. He was eventually sacked and it will take a long time to address the problems he left behind.

Being boss is frighteningly hard if one lacks the EQ to manage a diverse staff and manage the inevitable complaints from his clients. As a line manager, I want the team I manage to excel, and I want my clients to have an excellent CX. The past two years have been difficult all around and part of my job is giving clients bad news. If I didn't have faith in my team, I wouldn't have the necessary information to manage my clients' expectations, and make the experience of receiving the bad news tolerable.

While I don't subscribe to the adage that the customer is always right - in my profession, when the client walks in through the door, it is because he has been accused of doing something wrong - but I almost never dismiss my client's requests out of hand. In order to figure out what kind of service he needs, I ask a million questions, prepare a draft opinion, and  then work with the client to arrive at a common understanding of the problem and a reasonable understanding of how to deal with it. This takes time and my favourite boss understood this. She demanded speed, but never at the expense of precision. I miss her.

My least favourite boss assumed that all that hand-holding was intended to undermine him, that we were delaying solving clients' problems so that he would look bad to his bosses. As a result, he forced many of us to cut corners, with the expected outcomes: poor client experiences that eventually led to his sacking. He broke that which didn't need fixing, refused to fix it, shifted blame, and made working for him a nightmare, which made our client management suffer in the bargain. Even our clients are happy he got sacked.

So, yes, agree. A boss who wants his clients to have great CX and who is willing to do the hard work of setting the necessary standards and overseeing their implementation will almost always have grateful clients and loyal subordinates.

As by law established

The members of my profession, the ones with a pompous sense of importance, tend to use phrases whose value has diminished greatly since the ...