I was recently contacted by Matt Tenney about whether I would be willing to conduct an email interview for his blog and, perhaps, for use in a book that he is working on for Portfolio. The interview focuses on some thoughts on improving customer service with a combination of social media and more people-centered leadership.
I asked Matt if I could repost the interview here including a handful of amendments and embellishments. He graciously agreed.
Here’s the interview:
On your blog, you wrote a great post on the connection between generous and empathetic leaders and high levels of customer service: Empathy and generosity – the keys to engaging your customers and people. Could you elaborate a bit on why having empathy and generosity is so important for leaders?
I think empathy and generosity is important for leaders as I think it is a key part of:
- Leading by example,
- Making leadership personal, and
- Thus, being able to better connect with and motivate those that you are trying to lead.
This could, in real life, could be as simple as sending less emails, doing fewer meetings and speaking directly with people either on the phone or in person.
The key here is that you are, therefore, being more generous with your time and attention. But to make this as effective as possible you have to have, be able to seek, or be willing to build empathy with everyone that you are talking to. Understanding the other person’s perspective/viewpoint (you don’t have to agree with them) or challenges they face will help leaders build the connections, followers, and insights that leadership requires.
In the comments of the source post, James Lawther made a great point when he said that “it isn’t businesses that are at fault, it is their owners”. I agree with that but would go further and say that leaders and managers should not wait to be told that it is ok to do this. It is their responsibility to do this themselves.
What would you recommend organizations do to better measure how their leaders are doing in this regard?
First, I would suggest that organisations revisit the idea of Managing By Wandering Around (MBWA), a concept popularized by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman in their 1982 book In Search of Excellence, as a great, proven and simple way of engaging your customers and people.Organisations can then measure how they are doing, in this respect, by measuring how much time leaders are spending with customers, with front-line, back-office and operational staff, and what the impact is on overall employee morale and engagement.
You often help organizations strengthen their marketing efforts, especially with social media. How important do you think it is that businesses have a social media component to be able to remain competitive?
There is a piece of research (I learned about this from Graham Jones in an interview he did with Ian Brodie on The Future of Buying Professional Services) that says that customer shopping and buying behaviour has dramatically changed over the last ten years. Whilst the trend is applicable across industries the research cites the case of the automobile industry where it states that 10 or so years ago a customer wanting to buy a new car would visit, on average, 8 dealerships. Whereas now they will only visit, on average, 1.2 dealerships in their search for a new car. The implication is that customers are now doing most of their ‘shopping’ online and when they arrive at a car dealership, say, they are ready to buy. Therefore, to be successful and competitive in this changing world, firms need to think about how they are helping their customers or clients, existing or prospective, with their ‘shopping’ journey. Therefore, this has implications for a firms presence and activity in social media, in the broadest sense, and poses challenges for traditional ways of doing business.
I quite like the idea of a ‘shopping’ journey as opposed to a ‘customer journey’ and this is something that I’d like to explore in future. However, in order to do that, I need to let it ferment and percolate as an idea first.
This may just be semantics but, initially, it makes me think about the difference between ‘shopping’ and being a ‘customer’ and how we can tend to ‘shop’ for many reasons not just to ‘buy’.
What’s a simple way to increase the effectiveness of social media efforts based on this idea of being more empathetic?
I think that a good question that businesses and leaders can ask is something like: What would you like your customers to say about you to their colleagues, friends, and families?
Articulating that would be a great first step in helping the business understand their customers better and build that level of empathy that the modern firm and leader requires. After doing that, the firm will be in a better position to understand how and what type of activity, including social media, is required to deliver that sort of sentiment and advocacy.
You can read the original interview in full at Matt’s blog: Improving Social Media Effectiveness With A Human Touch
What do you think of my responses? Do you think there is anything that I missed? What would you add?