The most common question we hear when launching service excellence training programs inside large organizations is: “Do leaders really need to attend these workshops?”
This raises a different and more important question for senior leaders:
Do you seek to achieve service improvement in specific departments of the organization?
Or are you seeking to build a culture of service to boost service throughout the organization, upgrading customer experience, improving employee experience, and driving the differentiation of your brand?
If you choose the latter (and most business leaders do), then the idea of questioning leaders’ participation in service excellence training is based on several false assumptions:
- Service is a frontline activity only.
- Business leaders are not really involved in service delivery.
- Business leaders already understand service and have good service skills (otherwise how could they be leaders?)
- Business leaders only need an overview of service training content, not actual participation.
- Service education is tactical, not strategic, and thus not worth as much of leaders’ time.
However, if your aim is to build a culture of service excellence, then service education is not about specific skills, such as answering phones, grooming, listening, or following a service delivery process.
Instead, service excellence programs are created and delivered to create a mindset for service that influences everything your people do, for customers and for colleagues. It is a strategy to make your brand more vibrant and alive; to improve internal and external relationships, to create greater value, for customers, and for employees.
Thus, the answer to the original question: “Do our leaders need to attend Service Excellence training programs?” is emphatically and enthusiastically “YES!” And here is why:
- All leaders must become advocates for the culture and fluent articulators in the new language of service.
- Change must be demonstrated daily from the top, and not just announced.
- Teams follow leaders. They do what their leaders do. So leaders must role model new service behaviours. Don’t assume they already know how.
- Integrating new language, tools and processes with current programs and systems will only happen when leaders lead, coach, explain, promote, and insist. They must fully understand the changes they are promoting.
- All organizations rely on supporting service from suppliers, vendors, and contractors to deliver. Leaders can bridge the gap with these key players to ensure they also understand and partner efficiently in supporting a new service culture.
- Sustainable service education requires application. Leaders must know where, when, and how new service tools will be applied to relevant business needs.
Here’s are six steps you can take to effectively include leaders in your service excellence educational programs:
- Adapt service education to the level of leader. The time, activities, and focus may be different, but the vision, language, framework, and tools remain the same.
- Don’t have leaders merely attend. Have them to lead the workshops.
- Insist that all leaders open and close your service excellence trainings. This shows support and allows leaders to listen for employees’ concerns, ideas and outcomes.
- Provide leaders with a “Communications Kit” to articulate goals and directions before, during, and after service education.
- Give leaders a KPI for their team’s new ideas and action plans. This ensures new actions are encouraged to support current business needs.
- Ensure leaders share their progress with other leaders. Leadership meeting reports, service dashboards, and starting each meeting with a positive service story are a few effective tactics.
If the question: “Do our leaders really need to attend service excellence training?” is heard in your organization, you can be sure another frequent question will be your employees asking themselves, “Does my leader understand what is in this workshop? Has she or he attended??” The answer to both these questions must be (or become) a resounding and positive: “YES!”
What ideas and strategies do you use to engage your leaders in service excellence workshops and service related training?