By Debra Thompson
I can't even begin to tell you the number of times that I have been asked to do consulting for an owner and the first thing they say is, "I want you to be honest with me and tell me exactly what you think is going on around here." In many cases, my findings are that the owner is the source of the problems. He doesn't know what is going on or has installed controls that hamper employee performance or has not replaced antiquated methods and techniques. When it comes time for me to give my report and I begin by saying, "The main cog or obstacle that I find in this organization is YOU", they become defensive and start with the excuses to justify every condition that I bring to their attention.
Let me tell you, these owners have just wasted more money and time. If they are not willing to take an open, honest look at unbiased information that they have said they wanted, what's the point? When you are the owner of a company, you have made commitments. To your employees, you have committed to providing a secure place to work. To your customers you have committed that you will provide the best possible service and product. But during my consulting I see that there are many owners who are not providing a secure place for employees to work and are definitely not providing the best service or product for their customers. Why? Because they won't get their ego out of the way, see what's really going on and react to it.
We all know that "Customer Service" is the watchword of today. Good customer service is written and talked about constantly. Every owner hears it and talks about it, but doesn't seem to know what to do about it. My observation is that owners just don't want to address it, because then they will personally have to do something. They personally will have to become involved in customer-relations. This is the most frightening challenge that many owners face.
In order to address Customer Service issues the owner will inevitably have to deal with employees and their personalities head on. He will need to take a serious look at processes and analyze the systems that are in place. He must examine and analyze the flow of production. He will need to find out what or who is not working and make changes. These are all the responsibilities of the owner.
But how can an owner make any changes when they take all of these issues personally or have a fear of addressing problem areas head on? Many owners tell me that they know they should have more contact with their customers, but they just hate doing it. They can sometimes deal with customers at the counter, but to go outside of the center is a definite no. That's why they have hired counter personnel and outside sales representatives.
My next question to the owner is, "If you have very little or no direct contact with your customers, how do you personally know your customers true feeling about your store, your counter personnel, your outside sales representatives, the quality of your work, your delivery systems, etc.?"
What I see happening is that many of the owners are "empowering by default". They turn over this entire issue of customer relations and customer service to their employees. They rely on their employees to give them their versions of what is going on rather than hearing directly from the customer’s mouth what the real issues are.
Many owners don't understand the power that their title as "Owner" holds in the eyes of a customer. When an owner gets involved, the customer definitely gets the feeling that what they say will be taken seriously. They are flattered. They feel that someone of importance really does care about them as a customer. When this first step is taken, the owner will be shocked by what will begin to happen. He will start to get honest input directly from customers as to what they like about the company and also what they don't like. Owners are afraid to ask questions because they don't want to hear bad things. But if they are afraid to hear, how can they make any changes and improve conditions? They don't know what needs to be fixed!