It is early morning, Saturday, 8:55 a.m. The warm sun is about to overcome the morning chill as the cool evening has succumbed to yet another beautiful day. I arrive at a local garage for the annual vehicle state inspection. To my surprise, the parking lot is empty.
There is movement within the darkened service center. One employee clearly is preparing for the day’s work. He opens a drawer and then another one. He flips this switch and that one and — just like that — the place lights up. He fills the coffee pot with water. He counts the cash in the register. Finally, he grabs a large ring full of keys and heads toward the glass pane door — the customer entrance.
At 8:59 a.m., I decided to exit my car, walk up to the customer entrance and patiently wait to be served. I still am the only customer. The employee picks through the hundreds of keys precisely until 9:00 a.m. He inserts the right key in the right way and, with fortitude, unleashes the sound all customers are waiting to hear: the sound of an unlocking deadbolt. Clack! XYZ Automotive is now open for business… or are they really?
Demonstrate Customer Appreciation and Focus with Every Opportunity
Let’s back up a bit. A clear pane of glass separates us, the customer and the service provider. The employee never peeled his eyes off the monster key ring as he unlocked the door. The key extraction from the deadbolt consumes his focus as he turns and walks away. No eye contact. It now is up to me to push the door open and let myself in. There is no greeting. No “good morning.” No acknowledgement of my presence from the employee at this point.
I followed the worker until we reached the service center’s counter.
“How may I help you?” the employee asks, all while focusing on flipping through the crinkled pages of a blackened clipboard. Still no eye contact. Wrestling with the inconvenience of leaving and the disappointment of staying, I replied, “Good morning. Just a state inspection, please.”
It was then that I understood why the parking lot was empty.
Customer appreciation and focus throughout the organization is a leadership responsibility. Defining and demonstrating what customer appreciation and focus are to the organization distinguishes great leaders from the rest.
Just like there is an expectation for employees to check drawers, flip switches, count cash and unlock the doors for business, so should the leadership expectation be for customer appreciation and focus. These two are major discriminators in influencing the number of clients/customers willing to pay for your services.
Leadership Effectiveness Through a Pane of Glass
Employee behavior and demonstrated priorities are reflections of leadership. Every employee action or inaction is a direct result of leadership’s influence and effectiveness. How you measure employee performance and what you value as important is manifested through their behavior, which ultimately impacts the customer experience.
This automotive service center’s employee did not understand that the opportunity to search for the right key solely is present because customers like me selected his employer’s services above all others. The approach to customer service likely is to be dramatically different if leadership instills this high level of awareness within him.
Let’s consider an alternative approach: the one where an effective leader is on duty. Let us rewind this true story back ten seconds from the point in time when the employee is looking for the right key to the point when the employee unlocks the door. This is the moment of truth — the moment where leadership truly can shine and create a positive moment of impact toward superior customer and employee relations.
Ten seconds: employee looks up, smiles and waves at the customer waiting patiently by the locked door.
Eight seconds: the employee unlocks, opens and holds the door for the customer.
Six seconds: the employee says, “Good morning! Thank you for this opportunity to serve you and for being our first customer of the day. We appreciate it. This way, please. I will take good care of you. How can XYZ Automotive and I be of service to you today?”
Zero seconds: Enamored customer.
Leadership is a derivative commodity reflected by organizational behaviors and actions. We see it materialize within safety management system and business performance. The questions are: how are your employees and customers reacting to your leadership approach and focus? What actually happens at the moment of truth?
The answers to these questions are insightful because leadership effectiveness often is metaphorically evaluated through a pane of glass and ten seconds of time. Use this fact to grow and empower your workforce and fill your parking lots (virtual and otherwise) with adorning clientele.