Typically, direct contact with customers is delegated to the lowest in rank in the company. Front desk employees. Customer service agents.
But why would you? How can you delegate the most important thing, building a relationship with your customers, to people who are too often (management’s fault, not theirs) underpaid, under-experienced, under-involved and not empowered? But even worse, how -as higher management- could you allow yourself to be disconnected from what your customers say, do and think?
So, why not have your CEO do customer service calls? At least for a bit?
Yeah, that sounds great, but I’m never going to be able to convince my CEO.
Thought you would say that. Key is usually fitting this in the management’s natural behavior. And most managers are great at having meetings. So why not -as a start- carve out an hour every week in their calendar to call customers?
One hour. A simple list of customers he/she has to call.
The first time I encountered such a program was in 2010, when -then- Slideshare CEO Rashmi Sinha called me for more than an hour to discuss what I thought of Slideshare. We talked about everything, ranging from culture to product experience and she personally committed to make some improvements I suggested. It made me a fan for life.
Same goes for surprise travel startup srprs.me, where their CEO regularly called customers.
And in a way it is replicated by Kimpton hotels, where higher tier level customers get the CEOs phone number.
Such a simple intervention benefits all of us.
- For higher management, it helps them reconnect with the people that are most important, their customers.
- For middle management (you?), it usually helps you have higher management understand customers better and paves the way for more interesting experiments, really putting your customers first (e.g. embedding customer support throughout the organisation, involve higher management even more).
- For the customer, it is just one of these WOW moments. Having a CEO call you and personally commit to listening and solving your issue, is a true proof that you’re valued by the company.