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Good customer service starts with great leadership, says business-management thought-leader Ken Blanchard, and, with more than 35 years of management experience, he should know. Here, he’s pinned down five areas that service leaders should prioritise if they want to help their businesses and people thrive.

1. Meeting rising expectations

‘Meeting the ever-increasing expectations of the customer must be a leader’s top priority,’ says Blanchard. By consistently providing a personalised and tailored response to customers, be it online or offline, he believes customer-facing organisations can create real competitive edge, and potentially take the focus away from price.

2. Customer connections

While great products and smart prices can get customers through the door, what keeps them coming back is feeling cared for. Though customer-facing staff have the most influence in this regard, this personal connection has to come from the top. ‘When the relationship a frontline employee has with his or her manager is poor, poor customer service will nearly always be the result,’ Blanchard explains. On the other hand, companies that get this relationship right will set their employees up for success.

3. Empowering staff

‘Often, being a good service leader means turning over power to those closest to the customer, those generally considered to be at the bottom of the leadership hierarchy, who have little say in how things are done,’ says Blanchard. ‘One great way to create memorable moments for customers is to give frontline colleagues an ’empowerment’ fund to solve customer problems. They can spend this entirely at their discretion, without fear of reprimand.’

4. Seeing leadership in others

Leadership is not just about the top dog and a good senior executive will invest in anyone who is in a position to influence others. ‘Exemplary leaders in any organisation share qualities regardless of their sector,’ Blanchard notes. This starts with articulating the company’s service vision and values to all employees. ‘Next comes ‘walking the talk’,’ he adds. ‘Only an egotistical and unproductive leader refuses to be a role model for behaviours he or she expects from others in the organisation.’

5. Instilling trust

Finally, a good leader will accept that he or she should be held accountable for employee morale. ‘If people representing their organisation on the frontline are trusted to do their jobs well, and are allowed to get on and do their jobs without being micromanaged or constricted by too many rules and regulations, everyone benefits,’ Blanchard explains.

The Institute of Customer Service

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