I was reading a post the other day about Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, and how he introduces himself as the company’s customer service representative. It reminded me of a friend Stefan Topfer, CEO of Winweb, and what he does everyday. I’ve written about him before in this post: Does your CEO deal with customers directly?. Suffice it to say, he’s ‘on the tools’ every day dealing with customer queries and problems.
Seeing such examples, I find myself asking: Why do CEOs like Craig and Stefan do that? Why do they spend time with their customers and personally handling their questions and queries every day? I think that it’s got a lot to do with the fact that in doing so they:
- Keep in touch with their customers;
- Gain a huge level of insight that no amount of market research or feedback from their team could give them;
- Become more aligned with their employees and understand their their daily work more; and
- Gain insight into how the ‘nuts and bolts’ of their business works on a daily basis.
Thinking about this a bit more, I found myself thinking about the programme: Undercover Boss. It first appeared on Channel 4 here in the UK in 2009 but has since been franchised to seven more countries, including the US and Canada.
Now, I like this programme. I love some of the stories that it uncovers and the fact that it makes many of the employees the real heroes of the stories. But, it always concerns me that, in many cases, it seems like such a transformative experience for many of the CEOs and senior managers that get involved.
As a result, I often wonder how that level of ‘distance’ has been created between CEOs, senior management and their front-line employees. Is it to do with culture? Is it to do with how we organise our work and our organisations? Is it to do with a perceived ‘best use of my time’ idea?
In a world that is increasingly being driven by customer service and customer engagement, isn’t it about time that we re-evaluate the question ‘what’s the best use of my time’?
I believe that spending more time directly with and helping your customers should be right at the top, or near the top, of every boss’ list.
If it’s not then are you just paying lip service to being more customer centric and wanting to deliver more and better service to your customers?