Unless you work in research and development, where the value of your work may not be realized for many years, you are in the customer service business. That’s everyone from sales to finance to engineering.
I find this statement is a great conversation starter because it invariably gets mixed reactions.
Sales people and customer service representatives who are already close to the customers nod politely at this self-evident truth. The statement causes barely a ripple, because people in these roles meet with customers each day. They hear about customer goals, needs, and problems and help address the variety of issues that customers face.
People who work in supporting roles like human resources or finance often respond with raised eyebrows. The accounts receivable group may only rarely meet with the customers who pay the bills. And human resources teams, for example, sometimes fail to recognize that their efforts to establish retirement and insurance plans impact the quality of talent a company can attract. They may miss the connection between hiring the best people and strong financial results.
In reality, while the HR and finance departments are indeed somewhat distant from end customers, their work does impact the satisfaction and efficacy of what I call the front line teams. Finance and human resources groups provide the foundation so that the front lines can focus on customers without distractions.
Another group of employees who are sometimes skeptical of my statement are people in roles like engineering or software development. My network engineer colleagues assert that their job isn’t to support customers but to “design the most cost-effective networks” or “create resilient networks, with optimal quality of service.” True… but why? It’s understandable that they might lose sight of how their actions serve customers. Their indirect roles directly support the employees who have day-to-day customer interaction. In addition, their work directly impacts the quality of the customer experience across the network, whether those customers are employees or end users of service providers.
There are two fundamental questions to ask and answer:
- For employees – What about you? How does your role serve customers? If you stopped doing what you do, how would customer service be damaged?
- For managers – How have you helped your employees connect the work they do (regardless of title or role) with serving and supporting customers? Can your employees articulate how they “help the customer?”
The way managers and employees respond can be an indicator of employee engagement, individual business acumen and organizational alignment – topics we’ll cover in a subsequent post.
Ultimately, we are all in the customer service business. If we aren’t taking steps each day to serve our customers, then we must necessarily be wasting our time and our company’s resources on what a friend of mine refers to as “some kid’s science experiment.”