I love working in the training environment with front line employees who meet the customer. Of all the variety of things I now do in my work it is my favourite occupation.
Let me be absolutely clear - I am not on some sort of ‘let's knock managers’ evangelical rant here.
I was one and I’m proud to have been one. I gained an MA in Management (Healthcare) which was bloody hard work for God sake so I am not into the business of biting the hand that fed me for 35 years!
- I was a healthcare manager for more than 30 years
- I trained and developed professionally as a manager
- I was damned proud to be a healthcare manager
However close we THINK we might be as managers to the customer there is nothing to beat actually meeting the customer face to face. That physical interaction cannot be reproduced in the heads of managers locked away in their warm and comfortable offices, far away from the action on the front line. “Away from the blood, the muck and the bullets” as my late beloved Dad used to say.
I learn in every workshop I run from every individual I meet that the experts in customer care are the people providing the service at the sharp end – not the managers.
We can articulate intelligently as much as we like about customer care; we can turn it into some academic science as much as we like; we can write books about it; we can regurgitate quotes about customer care from alleged ‘experts’ or ‘gurus’ but as managers there is nothing better we can do - if we really want to understand our customers - than to listen to the stories and the experiences of our people who actually meet the customers – sometimes 300 per day.
Well actually there is ONE better thing we can do … and that is to set aside EVERY DAY some time in our ‘busyness’ to actually meet and listen to customers directly.
Managers have crucial facilitating/coaching roles for our front liners and the most effective managers of course recognise that and just get on with making the front liners job easier rather than more difficult.
My point is that managers are at their best when they are listening and making the job easier for the folks who interact with our customers. Why don’t managers give their employees ‘a good listening to’ more often?
The frightening thing is this stuff is so simple!