I checked in with my wife and kids in Atlanta for our flight to San Diego. As the ticket agent was taking our suitcase, I knew in my heart I will not be seeing that suitcase anytime soon. I just knew it. Have you ever had that unshakable certainty, even as you wished mightily to be wrong?? The gate agent was flustered, disinterested, and showed no signs of service to us, the customer. Two other agents at that counter seemed equally annoyed to be there, and lacked the skills we expect from customer facing staff. We changed planes in Phoenix. We arrived in San Diego at the appointed time. Our luggage… nowhere to be found!
Company culture gets reflected in it’s people. Especially customer intensive roles – sales, service, delivery, etc. I hold senior leadership responsible for a company’s customer service, even if the executives are far removed from the front lines of customer interface. Customer experience is critical as it reaches far beyond financial transaction; it affects brand, customer loyalty, and new client acquisition. Equally as important, customer service affects talent acquisition, recruitment and hiring. In other words, effective customer service reaches all the way through an organization and plays out in succession management.
I have friends and colleagues of immense talent and experience. If they asked my opinion about joining the airline I flew this weekend, I would dissuade them with vigor. My belief about the airline is that morale is low, the culture is slack, and the leadership is distracted. How do I form this opinion? Because I believe in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” It means that the senior leader is reflected throughout the organization; it means that leadership shapes and forms a culture.
Succession management is the deliberate development of leadership talent. Leaders bear an immutable responsibility to care for the organization. Customer experience determines the well being of an organization. Therefore, leaders who care about perpetuating the success of their organization must care about customer service.
My bag, by the way, is still traveling, not yet home. What are you doing as a leader to secure the future of your organization?