Connecting the Dots

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One thing I find interesting is how many people see no connection from their job to their organization’s customers.  I mean, every business is in business to help customers and it would seem to me that making sure everyone understands how they connect to the final result would be important.  But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I mean, most companies have Customer Service Departments as if service, the primary work all companies do, is some specialty item that only a special few can perform.

A great example of this segregated thinking occurred to me one day while eating lunch at an airport.  Two men were sitting next to me having a conversation about their company and various challenges they were having.  One of the gentlemen stepped away to go to the restroom so I turned to the gentlemen now sitting alone, “I couldn’t help overhearing but I have to ask, what is it you do?”  He explained a little about his company (it actually was his company, he was CEO and founder) and he asked what I did.  I explained that I helped to improve employee and customer experiences through speaking, training, writing, etc.

Anyway, the conversation continued, and given my service focus, he began expounding on the importance of customer service and how his prospective customers often asked about his commitment to customer service.  He complained to me that his customer service department was very small and that that was sometimes viewed negatively by these prospects.  At this point I think he was hoping I would respond with some magic bullet that would help him explain to these prospective clients that they should be more concerned with the quality of his service department and not the quantity of employees in it, but that’s not what I did.  No, my actual response went nothing like that and must have been quite a shock.  Without batting an eye, I asked him why he had a customer service department at all.  Why not tell these prospective clients that everyone in the company is customer service, everyone works for the customer.  He sat back somewhat amazed, thought about it for a minute or two and then turned to me and said, “You know, that’s a good question, why do we have a Customer Service Department?  Isn’t it everyone’s job to serve customers?”  I felt a very brief electric sensation as if I had just won something.

Now, this concept of everyone in an organization serving customers is tough for some people as they feel very distant from customers.  But it’s not that difficult if you just connect the dots.  Imagine you are driving down a road with freshly filled potholes and new lines painted.  You may never see the team that did the work but their work impacts you, it makes your journey better.  And that’s not all, there’s an army of other people in this chain.  There’s the person who purchased the paint and the asphalt, there’s the person who performs maintenance on the machines required and there’s the person who plans it all and makes sure the repair teams are where they need to be.  You, as driver (customer), see none of them but their work directly impacts your success.  This exact thing exists in every company, a chain of people who must do what they do in order for customers to be successful which means everyone serves, not just some department.

So, if everyone serves, wouldn’t it make sense if they understood how?  Wouldn’t it make sense to define for people how what they do matters to the success of the people who pay their paycheck, the customers?  How would this change how everyone works?  Might they try to be more responsive and more service focused not only with customers but with each other?  When the entire organization is focused on how they help customers (service- focus) rather than how they need to get tasks accomplished to fulfill company goals (self-focus), the whole workplace dynamic changes to one where everyone is helping each other to better help customers.

If this interests you, begin by looking at your job, how does it connect to your customers?  How do you impact them and their success?  Are you focused on their success or yours?  If you change your focus to their success, you will find your success will follow by default.

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