Why leadership has the biggest impact on customer experience

Key areas where leaders can make a difference to the customer experience.

Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping the success of organisations, particularly when it comes to delivering exceptional customer experiences.

From cultivating a customer-centric culture to empowering employees and modelling customer-first behaviours, effective leadership sets the tone and direction for the entire organisation.

The level of customer focus within an organisation is directly proportionate to the focus of the leadership. It begins with the CEO and the executive and extends to every people leader within an organisation.

Research by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60 per cent more profitable compared to companies that were not focused on the customer, and 64 per cent of companies with a customer focused CEO are more profitable than their competitors. Companies that lead in experience are more likely to have a CEO and executives leading company-wide customer experience efforts.

Now, more than ever, the world needs strong service leadership. Recent years have been tumultuous and significantly impacted organisations across the globe.

How we work has changed; the new normal of hybrid and remote workplaces has changed how we lead. With so much change and disruption, the role of leader is more critical than ever before in building and sustaining a service culture.

Key areas where leaders can make a difference to the customer experience include:

Cultivating a customer-centric culture

Leadership sets the tone for a customer-centric culture and great service leaders will champion a customer-first mindset. The strongest service cultures have an organisation-wide commitment to taking care of the customer driven by the leadership team, whether in customer facing or support roles.

A customer-centric culture is built on engaged and empowered employees. Leaders have the opportunity to create an environment where employees feel valued and have a sense of ownership over the customer experience. This involves prioritising training and development, providing ongoing coaching and recognising employees who consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Employee engagement

Leadership that prioritises the care, development and empowerment of employees will create a workforce that is highly motivated and engaged in delivering exceptional customer experiences.

Customer experience and employee experience are inextricably linked. Everyone benefits when they have concurrent attention — the employee, the customer and the organisation. Employee and customer experience have never been more aligned. Each is vital to the organisation’s success; if one area is lacking, the other will ultimately suffer.

The extent to which a leader cares about their team will be reflected in how well the team takes care of the customer. Happy customers are the result of building a happy team.

Empowering the frontline

Leaders have the ability to empower their team through knowledge, decision-making and discretionary spend. The more a leader can empower their team, the better the experience for everyone, including customers, team members and leaders. Decisions are made quickly, customers are not kept waiting, and team members feel more pride and satisfaction. When team members feel trusted, they are empowered to act in the best interests of the customer and the organisation.

Role-modelling customer centric behaviours

Great service leaders lead by example. The leadership team sets the standard of behaviour for the entire organisation. By living and breathing customer centric values and behaviours, leaders inspire their teams to emulate these principles. Each leader must recognise they set the benchmark for exceptional customer service through both their words and actions.

Accountability for results

Accountability is at the heart of every customer-focused organisation, resulting in cultures where everyone not only genuinely cares about the customer, they take ownership for results. Leaders establish standards and hold employees accountable for delivering exceptional customer experiences.

 This means each person takes responsibility and ownership for their decisions, actions, performance, and behaviours. Exceptional service leaders set clear expectations, monitor progress, and provide ongoing coaching, feedback, and recognition.

Leadership holds immense power in shaping the customer experience. By cultivating a customer-centric culture, empowering employees, modelling customer first behaviours and establishing accountability, leaders create an environment where exceptional customer experiences flourish.

When leaders prioritise and nurture a culture that values outstanding customer service, it creates a ripple effect throughout the organisation, ultimately resulting in increased customer satisfaction, advocacy, loyalty and superior customer experiences.

Monique Richardson, author of ‘They Serve Like We Lead – How To Take Care Of Your People So They Take Care Of Your Customers’ is a service leadership and customer service expert.

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