As we near the end of National Customer Service Week, one of the final topics we will explore is Leadership.
“The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, customer and company will suffer.”
Simon Sinek – Leadership Guru
It’s a common belief that the success of any organisation hinges on the strength of the people at the top. Traditional organisational structures put the decision making in the hands of these select few. The assumption is that this small team of highly-experienced and accomplished individuals will have the skills and knowledge to make the best decisions for the future growth of the company. In business, leadership has historically been put first and their opinions have been prioritised over those of the rest its people. However, in consumer-led businesses, does this antiquated approach really work? Can we put all the power in the hands of a small group of people who rarely come face to face with their consumers?
The responsibility of leadership in a customer-centric organisation, we would argue, is to harness the knowledge and experience of your people on the front line. By gathering insights from the bottom up and developing your strategy based on the recommendations of the people that know your customers best, you will start to create a truly customer-focused culture that your customers love. Not only does this turn your employees into brand ambassadors, it turns your customers into fans.
Easier said than done? The reality for most consumer and retail businesses is short-term profitability, so the role of leadership is to protect that profit and build revenue growth. We’ve all heard the Richard Branson quote “look after your employees and they will look after your customers” but does that really work? The intangible outcome of this is experience, and with traditional leaders needing hard numbers to evidence growth, it’s only a brave few that put their faith in Virgin’s approach. It is that brave few, however, who are weathering the economic storms of the last decade. As high street names such as BHS, House of Fraser and Carillion collapse, we could ask ourselves “what did the leadership team do wrong?” Were they serving their people so that they could serve their customers better, creating customer experiences that lived up to their brand promises and delivered on their customer commitments?
Whilst Leaders will always be accountable for the success or failure of an organisation, does this really mean you have to be a lone warrior relying on your own insight and instinct to drive your company forward, or could there be another option? At Brand Biology, we believe that great leadership is about behaviour. More than that, understanding your unconscious leadership style and the impact that has on your people enables you to make it conscious and intentional. By working with your people to define the behavioural blueprint for your organisation, as a leader it is then your responsibility to steer this from the front, ensuring that your people receive the same first class experience that you have mutually agreed your customers will.
In 1970 Robert K Greenleaf said;
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first; perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions… The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature…..”
At Brand Biology, we help you to understand the reality of your customer and employee experience, helping you bridge the gap between reality and your aspirations. We develop bespoke leadership programmes that focus on developing inspiring leaders who focus on serving the needs of their people so that they are empowered to meet and exceed the needs of their customers. Get in touch today to find out how you can make the move to becoming a customer-servant leader.