Imagine if everybody in a business served customers or fielded customer enquiries

All help

Last year OneReach, a cloud software provider of voice and text solutions, asked 63 customer service experts their opinion on the #1 way to improve customer service. After compiling all of the experts’ opinions, the top two ways to improve customer service were considered to be:

  1. Focus on employee experience; and
  2. Walk in the customer’s shoes.

Now, over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about these results and how leadership and management teams can accomplish both of these things in different and impactful ways.

One way that seems to be very effective is to actually get leadership and management teams to go work alongside employees serving and helping customers. Take Olive Garden, for example, whose new Board of Directors last year took it upon themselves to work in one of their restaurants greeting and serving customers in order to experience life as an employee but also what it is like to be a customer. After working a night in a restaurant, then Chairman of the Board, Jeff Smith, commented that:

“It was an amazing experience because we felt as board members, ‘How are we going to be able to make good decisions in the board room without really knowing what’s happening inside the restaurants?’”

Now, whilst episodic ‘front-line’ experiences are often hugely insightful and, in many ways, transformative, I do find myself wondering why senior leadership teams don’t do this type of thing on a regular basis in order to keep their insight and understanding of the employee and customer experience timely, real and front of mind.

But, should this sort of experience and insight just be limited to leadership teams? Isn’t there an opportunity to go further and involve more people from across organisations to both deepen and broaden the insight and understanding.

Imagine if everyone in a company served customers in store or fielded support calls or answered customer emails or did something like that.

Imagine if companies organised themselves so that all of their staff, including leadership and management, were required to put shifts or slots in their diaries to work in store or answer phone calls or emails or respond to web chat enquiries or comments on social media etc etc.

Obviously, staff would need to receive the right training and tools to be able to do this and the company would have to decide how often it wanted its people to do this in order to manage their day to day workloads. But, imagine the signal it would send to employees and customers if the CEO or CTO or CMO or CFO and everyone else had a ‘shift’ or a two or three hour slot once a month, say, in their diaries where they served customers or fielded customer enquiries.

Imagine the insight and understanding that everyone would get around what it is to be a customer and an employee at all levels of the business and what needed to change to make things better and improve performance.

Imagine, if done well, how many extra support or service hours it could deliver.

Just, imagine.

Now, there will be some executives that will read this and they will think “this wouldn’t be the best use of my time”.


What better use of your time is there than serving, helping and understanding your customers and employees?

If companies are committed to delivering a better employee and customer experience and, as a result, better competing in the marketplace then they have to be willing to consider doing things differently, including how they operate their businesses.

Getting everyone involved in doing the work of serving and helping customers could offer a very effective way of achieving that.





This post was originally published on my column here.

Thanks to MyStockPhotos for the image.

7 comments On Imagine if everybody in a business served customers or fielded customer enquiries

  • I agree that this type of walking in your customer’s shoes should be insightful, but here are the thoughts I am left with:
    -this seems very inward-looking and focused a lot on efficiency. How can I do what I am doing better, faster, more efficiently. If you can do something better or faster, why didn’t you do that in the first place?
    -does this approach push a CEO, CTO, CMO out of their comfort zone to actually do something in a different way? Does it address a root cause or simply make the ‘plaster’ better?
    -should the customer always be the focus? I often think that if you make things better for the agent, the customer should naturally benefit

    • Hi Guy,
      Great to hear from you and I hope that you are well.
      Thank you for your comments and questions, here’s a few responses:
      – You could be right that something like this may be inward looking, but why is that a bad thing if it could help improve both the customer and employee’s experience? Also, just because someone could do something better or faster ignores the culture and context of the organisation.
      – I think that getting the CEO, CTO, CMO etc out from their meeting rooms, offices, inboxes and away from their managed schedules, messages, imformation and entourages and out of their comfort zone is a good thing. Perhaps, rather than addressing a root cause, why couldn’t it cause a fundamental re-examination of how we do things.
      – I agree.

      Let’s have a chat about these.

  • Adrian,

    For a while I worked for ASDA stores. They insisted that every Christmas everybody from head office went into store for a week to help.

    In reality we spent most of our time stacking shelves, but it was always hugely insightful. The average ASDA consumer isn’t big into speciality cheeses and the life of a shelf stacker isn’t a rewarding one…

    It was a hugely leveling experience.


    As an aside, the amount of Advocaat that is bought at Christmas is mindboggling

    • Hi James,
      My sister works for another large retailer and they still do that. I wish more firms did more of this, more frequently.
      I wonder if Advocaat is still as popular or if it has been overtaken by something else that is equally mindboggling.

  • I think that there is now an increasing awareness on this. It seems that businesses are slowly realizing that it all boils down to how much they serve their customers. All the real profit come from there.

  • If this happens, then it will be really hard to choose between the companies. Customer service has a massive impact whether or not the customers like to admit it or not.

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