Do We Have a Leadership Problem?

Leadership. I was recently with a client who has a team struggling to provide a consistent, quality service experience. The team is made up of senior agents who have all of the skills necessary to wow their customers, but a quick analysis of their phone calls reveals that they are stuck in a quagmire of mediocrity.

As I spent some time evaluating the situation, two things became very clear to me. The leader of this team is extremely competent and highly productive, but he doesn't care at all for the quality with which his team communicates with customers. The call center manager is aware that the team leader himself provides poor quality service, but is so pleased with his competent productivity that the poor quality is overlooked and ignored.

The result is that the entire team follows the example of their leaders. The CSRs can easily dismiss their own poor quality scores because their team leader doesn't care what they are, nor will they be held accountable to a higher standard. The call center manager can bark all he wants to about improving quality scores, but the daily reality on the call floor is that the team does whatever it wants and neither the team leader nor the manager does anything about it.

The head of a highly effective international organization, whom I respect, once addressed the issue of poorly performing teams. When confronting the fact that a team is not performing well, he gets the key players together in a room and starts by asking the question, "Do we have a leadership problem?" No leader in the chain of command is excused from consideration of the question.

I often witness managers, when grappling with poor performing teams, who start by asking questions like "Do we have a technology problem?" or "Do we have a training issue?" If your team is struggling, I would respectfully suggest that you start with an honest examination of leadership within the organization.

  6 comments for “Do We Have a Leadership Problem?

  1. August 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Tom–
    So true! The leadership has the biggest and best opportunity to influence the culture within his own team and within the organization at large. Customer service isn’t so hard; it just requires motivation. And while training and incentives are great options, the truth is that if the corporate culture doesn’t reward great customer service, those incentives will fall flat.
    Or, in less eloquent words, Dear Corporations: nothing else matters if your customer service s**ks: http://spoken.typepad.com/spoken/2009/08/dear-corporations-nothing-else-matters-if-your-customer-service-sks.html

  2. Ted
    August 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Congratulations! Our selection committee compiled an exclusive list of the Top 100 Customer Service Blogs, and yours was included! Check it out at http://thedailyreviewer.com/top/Customer-Service
    You can claim your Top 100 Blogs Award Badge at http://thedailyreviewer.com/pages/badges
    Cheers!

  3. August 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for the apt comments, Heidi. Well said!

  4. August 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Prof Hendricks use to tell us, “more things are caught than taught.”
    That’s what seems to be happening here.
    Love your stories for inside the belly of the marketplace beast.
    Keep creating,
    Mike

  5. September 10, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Tom
    Spot on. How many times have I seen this?

  6. September 11, 2009 at 10:00 am

    I’m sure I’d be discouraged to know how many times you’ve seen it, Jonty. Here’s to reversing the trend.

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