Tag Archives: Customer experience

Three Cornerstone Leadership Skills

There are many skills required to be a good leader. In my experience there are three core capabilities however, that when mastered, provide an outstanding platform for leadership success.

CoachStation: Leadership Development

These three skills are not only of great value to leading, but also to an extension/requirement of leadership which is the ability to build meaningful relationships with depth. Connecting with and the understanding of people is a key to earning the right to trust and be trusted; removing assumptions; accepting that differences between people is natural and when understood is a positive aspect of life; and increasing the opportunity to influence. Each of the skills detailed adds significant value to make these goals a reality.

Listening

The ability to truly listen forms a crucial element of any relationship. In my experience it remains the biggest single gap in capability and is not a strength across most people. Leaders who listen and take in the context and words of others have more chance to build a depth in relationships and purposeful direction, bringing others along on the journey. Listening impacts the level of respect people feel towards one another and taps into the core need to participate and be a ‘cog in the many cogs’ that make business run and life a success.

Associated skills such as paraphrasing; acknowledging; and body language are all important communication attributes, however listening has the most immediate impact both visually and practically. It is a difficult attribute to change or improve as it goes against the grain for most people. But it is not impossible and the power that comes from being a good and effective listener can be a game-changer for many of us in leadership positions.

Empathy

In my experience empathy is as much about acknowledging as anything else. I have worked within the leadership and customer experience areas for many years and it is amazing how customers and employees respond when empathy is provided at the appropriate time. It is just as impacting when the opportunity to show empathy is missed.

Empathy sits in the mid-range between apathy and sympathy. When practiced sufficiently so that empathy becomes a natural or unconscious part of how you think and operate, it can be a powerful tool in connecting with people. Empathy allows you to understand the emotional state of other people and build a connection though acknowledgment and understanding of alternative perspectives. The potency in this is enormous however is regularly a missed opportunity.

Questioning

The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is the single greatest skill I have been able to develop in myself and in helping other leaders develop.

How do you improve understanding? Ask!

This should not take the form of or feel like an interrogation. Developing the skills to know when is appropriate, what to ask and how many questions are relevant based on the person and situation will provide great clarity, purpose and direction. Again, this will also go some way to building a deeper and richer relationship with the person involved. We often feel the need to justify another’s position. When we seek solutions for a team member who has an issue that they want resolved or are unhappy with, we often try to resolve from our perspective, not theirs.

How can we answer a question that is not understood (or even asked)? It is neither our role nor right to speak on others behalf and we certainly don’t know as much about the issue or topic as the person involved. So don’t feel compelled to respond and justify what is not understood. Do question and paraphrase to understand and gain clarity.

None of these skills are a silver bullet that will resolve all relational and leadership issues. There is no doubt in my mind however, that by practicing and developing the ability to listen to what others are truly saying and meaning; ask the right questions to clarify and understand; and connect through relating to others via empathy actions and statements, you will become a better leader. In fact, these capabilities, when improved, will have a direct positive impact on all of your relationships…and who doesn’t want that?

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Leading Is Awesome – Leadership Thoughts

Leading people is awesome, but who judges whether you are a good and effective leader?

CoachStation: Leadership Rewards

What are the elements that allow us to develop leadership self-awareness? These are some of the key questions I often think about when developing ideas to write about or when focused on developing and coaching others. Within my roles I also spend quite a bit of time focusing on customer experience or put another way, helping to create cultures that are able to provide a level of customer service that exceeds expectations. Oddly perhaps, the two are linked in morevways than simply the obvious.

The only way to truly know whether you or your business have exceeded expectations is to ask your customers. Similarly, the best people who are in a position to judge whether we are good and effective leaders are those we lead. It is interesting how many people and leaders find it difficult to ask…and yet it is the only real, qualified method of receiving a genuine sense of how you are viewed and what you can do to improve. It is a brave yet potentially rewarding activity, if you are willing to truly hear the responses and actively do something about the comments and insights.

Understanding how you are going is one aspect, but when is the right time to start leading? When it comes to taking the first step, often it is about taking the opportunities when they present. Additionally, when provided the opportunity to lead are you ready to step up? The challenges of leadership are easily matched and often exceeded by the rewards. Finding and maximising the opportunities presented are not always easy stages of the leadership exposure and development process. However they are important.

In any pursuit, a football team, a business or the community generally, there are different times when different people get the opportunity to lead…The challenge isn’t so much the leadership, it is recognising when the opportunity arises and doing something about it. (1)

There is no right or wrong time to start. After all, when is the ‘right’ time to get married, if at all? Similarly there is no ‘right’ time to have children. It is an individual choice influenced by many factors, most only known and understood by the person or people involved. Knowing yourself and being prepared to ask is a great beginning to the leadership journey.

I continue to write about the inputs to and outputs from leadership and always enjoy the conversations with friends and team mates related to the subject. Recently a collegaue of mine, Keith, responded to a post I had written previously. He made a few relevamnt points that are worth sharing.

1] Leadership is easily derailed by internal and external forces. It requires a big investment in time and emotional effort, and when either of these are challenged then it’s easy to see why it is so often allowed to slip and Leaders become managers. So when resources are scarce or your environment is working against you or your personal resources are not as bright and sparkly as usual, then it takes a special strength to keep your head above water. Leaders also benefit from having the time to think.

2] Self awareness is key. If you don’t stop and take an audit of what you’re good at and where you need to improve – at regular intervals – it’s hard to help others develop.

3] Understand others and issues rather than judge them.

4] Even the best Leaders need examples that they can model themselves on – the things to do and the things not to do. When there is an absence of role models – or the people that are available do not display the character or behaviours you think are right, then that’s a challenge. You need to look somewhere else – but where’s a good place to look?

When things get tough I have trained myself to ask myself these two questions:

Easy over hard. Will I take the easy way or will I take the hard way? Taking the hard way usually brings the biggest result. Sometimes it’s OK to walk away from an issue, but normally walking into it and doing the hard work will have a better outcome.

What you’ve got is what you want. If you don’t like what you’ve got – then the power is with you to change it. It’s no one else’s responsibility. If you’re not prepared to change it then accept it; learn to live with it; and don’t complain about it.

These are our thoughts. What do you think?

(1) AFRBoss.com.au, August 13th

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Filed under Leadership, People Development

Leadership, Employee Engagement and Customer Service

I attended last years IQPC Customer Experience Management Conference in Sydney and thoroughly enjoyed the content. I learned a lot.

There were many great speakers. Many of them focused on the what – meaning that I learned about tools, measurements, successes through data collection and customer platforms, amongst other aspects. I was invited to this year’s conference, including the opportunity to be a guest speaker during the opening day. I wanted to set a challenge to myself and the attendees with a pitch more aligned to the ‘how’:

• How do we achieve improved customer service results?
• How do we establish the right culture to balance employee, customer and business needs?
• How do we use the extensive quantities of data available to real advantage?
• How do we create employee engagement, empowerment and buy-in that means our customers feel the benefit?
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My presentation was titled ‘Customer Experience Management from the Inside-Out‘ The core theme implies that if we want to genuinely positively impact customer experience and service standards, we must build a culture and understanding that the customer matters with all employees. We should view Customer Experience as a culture, not a tool. I imagine everyone in the room knew this. I also believe that most of the attendees, all specialists in their fields, actively focus on internal culture, employee engagement and the relationship to customer service and experience to some degree. Many of them may even measure this.
Ledaership, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience - How Do They See You?
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However, building a culture that is actively and meaningfully engaging both internal customers (your employees) and external customers is more easily said than done. I do not pretend to have all the answers and I recognise that inputs into Customer Experience Management (CEM) are many and varied. What I will say though is that in my experience there is a gap between intent and behaviour when it comes to leadership, development, employee engagement, empowerment and related beliefs and activities in many organisations. According to a report created by the Genesys group titled the Cost of Poor Customer Service, 73% of consumers end a relationship due to poor service. The report highlights various trends and many areas to focus on, along with details regarding statistics and verbatim comments related to CEM. At face value it should be easy to improve upon aspects such as these.
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Accessing more data or modernising software and systems can assist issues such as those highlighted, however it is only part of the story. I have made the mistake previously on trying to improve CEM through the front-line employees – those who have direct contact with our customers. Whereas it is possible to see success at individual employee level, the messages and learning must be reinforced by leaders and through what they were being measured on. I have learned that a bottom-up approach for providing great customer service only takes you so far.

Leadership, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience

Different departments are often siloed and have different leaders with varying skills and agendas along with competing objectives, metrics and motivations. In many organisations, departments do not work together naturally as a team to best serve the customer, yet such teamwork is essential to collaboratively deliver consistent customer experience. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report explores the relationship between consumers and brands. Based on a survey commissioned by RightNow and conducted by Harris Interactive, the report reveals:

• 86 percent will pay more for a better customer experience.

• 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

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None of this would be a big surprise to many of you, I am sure. But, they are good reasons for us as business leaders to focus on improving our customer experience.

A genuinely effective customer experience approach requires a top-down strategy based on broad and extensive cultural change.

The CE IQ study found that the most successful companies are those who have senior leadership not only buying into but actively driving a customer centric culture and related set of actions. Intuitively this all makes sense. So, where are the gaps.
Part of the answer can be found through two questions, which when responded to provide insight for any business:
  • What makes a memorable experience that causes consumers to stick with a brand?
  • How do we make our customers feel?
Effective leadership and employee engagement are critical factors in providing a culture where people want to work…and to provide more of what our customers want. Foundation values such as empowerment and employee satisfaction cannot be given to an individual or employee-base, but creating an environment that has a higher propensity towards meeting these needs is possible.
Customers can tell within minutes—even seconds—whether they are dealing with an engaged and committed employee or a dissatisfied employee, which can greatly affect their willingness to engage in business, and ultimately impact a company’s profitability. Studies have shown that, great leaders are able to keep their highest performing employees and have four times the number of highly committed employees, which affects productivity.
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The lesson for any manager is clear: If you want to increase profits and have more satisfied customers, develop your teams, develop your own skills and concentrate on becoming a more effective leader.

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Filed under Culture, Employee Engagement, Leadership, People Development, Strategy