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Tough Times? Tactics to Keep Your Customer Service Strong!

Anyone can lead amazing Customer service and outstanding execution when times are easy and the mojo is rolling.

It’s how we drive that same mission when things are a little tougher that matters.

There are so many variables in business, service, and leadership, that we have to be ready to execute in less than ideal circumstances. You may be leading a huge change effort, opening a new piece of business, or correcting an underperforming segment of your organization – but the path to success is paved with same stones.

Make yourself available. We have discussed in the past that engaging with your team in real time is one of the best ways to lead a change effort. Your team is going to have questions and sometimes will need a shot in the arm with your winning personality. You have to be willing to stop and talk with folks and give them your valuable time. Even if you can’t stop right at that moment, you need to make sure you set up a time for the deeper conversation. You’ll need to keep your schedule open enough to accommodate these “pop up meetings.” Too often, managers overschedule themselves in a day and have no free time for things that come up. Besides, scheduling yourself bumper-to-bumper for a whole day is terrible for you – there is no time for reflection, for lunch, or even for a minute to breath.

Don’t overreact when things go sideways. No one in your organization wants a whiner when things are hard. Don’t lose your mind, scream, yell, or carry on. Then you will just have a whole new set of problems when you end up with unhappy team members who disengage, quit, or file complaints. That makes for an even worse kind of hell, because then you essentially end up going it alone. You have to stay calm when things aren’t going so well and be a rock for your team. I have been told during stressful times when I started to show cracks “You are our rock – you can’t crumble.” When someone on your team looks you in the eyes and lays that on you, it is sobering to say the least.

One of the most important things to remember is that you have to take the time to make great decisions when times are tough. You have to really dial in your thinking, not skirt your duties, be diligent, and bring the very best of your talents to help your team win.

Don’t underreact when things unravel. There is, though, something to be said for intensity. We’ve all known managers that were MIA during a bad day, week, or quarter. They lock themselves away, don’t engage, and fold like a Denver omelet. I’m sure they are nice people, but in times of transformation or trouble, Leaders must show up. This is the time to lend their tenacity, vigor, and strength to the organization to move through the trouble. There has to be a certain point where you will not accept anything less than excellence and push the organization to stretch to its limits. No big change or troubled moment ever ends without stretch – and good Leaders push teams out of their comfort zones and accelerate change without letting their teams break.

Get in there yourself. Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty, and any Leader who has led multiple change efforts, or managed through hard times, knows the drill.   You have to jump into the mix and help wherever you can. Whether you jump in to help with hiring, training, or working on the front line the benefits are the same. First, you fill a gap that could sink your entire business. As a Leader, chances are you have skill in your business that will help things go well due to your involvement; however, the other piece is that you show your teams that you are right there with them. That is comforting for those on the front lines who may be troubled by all that is happening. When things are not going well for an organization, Front Line Associates – the ones we depend on to serve our Guests – can feel powerless and afraid. That is not good for them or the Guest we want them to delight.

Be the change you seek to drive. We have talked about modeling behavior over and over again. So, let’s talk about it one more time because there is still work to do. If your business is in trouble, your place is out on the front lines. Don’t tuck away in an office. Don’t sit and plan. Don’t give orders from behind closed doors. Get out there and motivate, inspire, and help your team. When Leaders stand should-to-shoulder with their teams and show them what great service and execution looks like, the chances for success increase exponentially. Team members learn best when they are given the chance to practice and when they can see a great example as they do so. What better example than to see their Leader out there cleaning, serving Guests, or helping others. That is a powerful statement that no memo, email, or conference call can ever replicate.

Overall, there is a mixed bag out there when times are tough. I have seen Leaders who neglect all but the underperforming segments of the business; I have seen Leaders shut down and go quiet; I have seen Leaders succumb to knee jerk decision making that just makes things worse.

But I have also seen the Leaders who step up, shine through, and communicate with scalpel like precision when they are pushed into a corner during dark times.

The second collection of principles works much better.

Keep in mind that we will all have tough times in our business – profitability is elastic, satisfaction is slippery, and excellence is ever-changing.

Stay in tune with your teams and keep your Guests at the very center of what you do. When you focus on these two groups and keep them in mind, making decisions that can put things right becomes easier and the mission forever stays clear.

Until next week, please treat every Guest like the most cherished of friends.


Tony Johnson Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker

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