Personally, I believe that a strong leader allows for opinions that are contrary to their own. In fact, I have at least one employee that disagrees with me on a regular basis and I foster that contrariness. I am not infallible and certainly do not know everything. I do not want “yes (wo)men”.
As a leader, part of the role is to understand the larger scope of things and the long term strategy behind decisions. In really comprehending this, you NEED people who are contrary to your opinion, your work style, and your thought patterns. This allows you to round out areas that you’re blind and avoid making a decision that is wrong simply because you don’t have the visibility.
I equate it somewhat to having a passenger in the car who happens to look out your side-rear window and yells “Look out!”, even though you’ve been checking all of your mirrors. They have a different vantage point that is more focused (only looking at the side) where as you are responsible for all aspects – front, back, and both sides. You need to trust that someone who is focused on a specific area might have a better view, better information, or better knowledge about what’s occurring in that arena.
This, however, does NOT mean that a strong leader allows an individual to derail everything or to argue with everything. At that point, you have a backseat driver in your car and should probably ask them to tone it down or step out. There is certainly a fine line between constant disagreement with your employee and strong leadership accepting the varied opinions of your team. If your employee is constantly diverging from your vision and direction, there comes a time when you (and they) need to make a decision on whether or not the individual belongs on your team.
In the case of my employee, s/he agrees with the vision; s/he agrees with the direction. S/he just doesn’t always agree with my direction and is willing to stand up for what s/he believes. Once the decision is made and the direction is given, s/he accepts it and moves on. There is true mutual respect and it boils down to a simple fact: I have the final say. Someone has to.
That is how your, as a leader, should allow your team to bring their strengths to the table.
A little bit ago, I wrote on Micro vs Macro and the customer experience. In there, I alluded to separating the two typical terms of customer experience measurement.
Why should we differentiate between loyalty and satisfaction? I’ve been asked this a lot in the past while and, really, it’s a good question. We’ve been targeting Customer Satisfaction for years. What’s wrong with this measurement? At its root, there probably isn’t anything wrong with it and if it’s the measure that works for you and your business, then I would suggest continuing down that path. That having been said, maybe it’s time to broaden your view and elevate your expectations.
Here’s some relevant definitions for this discussion:
What is a Customer: one that purchases a commodity or service (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/customer)
What is Satisfaction: a result that deals with a problem or complaint in an acceptable way (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satisfaction)
What is Loyalty: the quality or state of being loyal (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loyalty) …. Don’t you hate it when definitions seem a bit circular…
What is Loyal: having or showing complete and constant support for someone or something (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loyal)
Now that we have that out of the way, which seems more appealing to you? A one time result that deals with a problem or complaint in an “acceptable way” or a customer that shows complete and constant support? I know which one I’d prefer to have as someone doing business with my company.
The only way to do this, however, is to really understand the lifecycle of the customer and the entire process. It’s not always possible to satisfy someone 100% of the time (at least not while also staying in business), but it is possible to build a person’s loyalty by treating them right, providing them stellar service, great sales, and excellent interactions throughout the start to finish of their partnership with you as a company.
Michel Falcon is a public speaker and business coach in the space of customer experience. He posted something a little while ago called “Customer Experience isn’t Customer Service.”
In that blog, he had a single line that struck me as excessively poignant.
Customer experience is the premeditated design of what your customer experiences when doing business with you from beginning to end.
Too many companies focus in the micro-transaction instead of the macro-experience around the customer. Elevating the experience from mediocre to phenomenal takes a lot more focused effort than how do I handle this single transaction, this single event. There is a massive difference between how someone implements their business and focuses on the customer.
All too often, companies make the statement of “we’re customer focused”. What does this mean? In many cases, it means that they handle the individual micro-transaction with the customer well or it means that the company is rated A+ on the BBB or it means that they have a 5 star rating for customer service on Yelp. When you drill down into the depths of this, the fact is that the majority of the BBB or Yelp ratings are based on a single event – a single opportunity to do well or badly. It doesn’t mean that there is a strategic, concerted effort to build a customer experience from start to finish for the entire lifecycle of that customer.
Similar to the difference between Customer Loyalty and Customer Satisfaction (which I’ll cover in another blog post), Customer Experience and Customer Service are two separate entities. One speaks to the way that you service a complaint or deal with an order. The other, the more broad reaching, speaks to the overall impact that your business can have.
Customer Service leads to Satisfaction. Customer Experience leads to Loyalty.