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Next Level Customer Service Blog

News, tips, and trends to help you reach that next level of customer service.

Entries in leadership (3)


The lazy customer service manager

I’m feeling a bit lazy. My mission is to write this blog post, but I really don’t want to invest the effort necessary to write a good one. The way I see it, I have three options:

  1. Republish something I’ve already written for someone else
  2. Embed a funny YouTube video that somehow makes a point about service
  3. Draw inspiration from someone else.

Let’s go with option 3 because I already have someone in mind: The Lazy Customer Service Manager. Before I go on, please excuse any snarkiness. I’m too lazy to edit that out today.


The Lazy Customer Service Manager: A Profile

I’ve met a lot of customer service managers. The great ones work tirelessly to help their team deliver world class service and the results speak for themselves.

The lazy ones work tirelessly to find shortcuts. Most of those shortcuts don’t work. Their results speak for themselves too.

Here are a few examples.

Perfect Attendance Awards

The idea behind this motivational gimmick is that people need extra motivation to come to their lousy jobs on a regular basis. This seems to be especially popular in call centers. Perhaps this is because very few people have ever said, “You work in a call center?! Is it as glamorous as it sounds?”

The lazy manager thinks, “I know how to solve our absenteeism problem. We’ll create a perfect attendance award where everyone who has perfect attendance for a month will be entered into a drawing. The winners of the drawing will get to spin a prize wheel for a chance to win fabulous prizes such as candy, gift cards, and (ironically) a day off with pay.”

That was a real example. I so wish I was making this up.

Great customer service managers take a slightly different approach. They focus on making the workplace a great place to be so people will naturally want to come to work. 

Suggestion Boxes

There are a number of reasons why the lazy manager will put out a suggestion box. Perhaps the manager read an article somewhere that the best companies ask their employees for input. Maybe Office Depot is having a sale on suggestion boxes. It could be that the manager is just looking for a way to get employees to stop complaining directly to him. The possibilities are endless.

One lazy manager I knew thought he was enlightened when he promised to post a written response to each suggestion on the team bulletin board. This practice quickly stopped when the vast majority of suggestions turned out to be complaints about working conditions, co-workers, and even the boss.

Again, I really wish I was making this up.

Great customer service managers skip the suggestion box and talk to their employees on a regular basis. They recognize that a true “open door” policy requires them to walk through their door and create an environment where employees will be comfortable enough share their candid opinions.

Incidentally, I did Google “suggestion box” as part of my exhaustive research for this blog post. Sharlyn Lauby has a good post on her HR Bartender blog called 7 Considerations for Suggestion Box Programs.

The Angry Memo

Serious customer service issues can sometimes arise. The lazy manager often addresses these issues via an angry memo that’s emailed to everyone on the team or perhaps posted on a bulletin board. Typically, only one or two people on the team are actually to blame, but the lazy manager finds it safer to get everyone involved rather than speak privately with the people who really need to hear the message.

One example comes from a restaurant in Boston where the owner allegedly posted this memo on an employee bulletin board in response to a bevy of customer complaints:

“You are the LOSERS!!!” … “Change or be changed. Please, don’t force your termination for the holidays.”

You can read more about the story on Patrick Maguire’s I’m Your Server Not Your Servant blog.

Great customer service managers skip the angry memo and constructively address issues as soon as they arise. For example, a customer complaint might be treated as a learning experience and met with a discussion on ways to improve service quality.

What are other characteristics of a lazy customer service manager?

Some might call this last part lazy since I’m basically asking you to finish this post for me by leaving your comments. I prefer to call it crowd-sourcing.

Whatever the term, please do share your own examples of signs that a customer service manager is being lazy.


Ten bad leadership habits that lead to poor service

There are people for whom customer service is a core value, one that is always present in their personal and professional lives. When these types of people lead customer service teams, their teams tend to work magic.

There are also people who don't truly believe in customer service. When these people lead customer service teams, service failures tend to be the norm. They may talk a good game to try to convince their customers, their employees, and even themselves that service is indeed important. However, their true colors are eventually revealed by their bad habits. 

Here are ten examples of bad leadership habits that cause service failures:

  1. Unable to clearly articulate what outstanding customer service looks like.
  2. Too impatient to do things right.
  3. Focused on catching employees doing things wrong instead of helping them do things right.
  4. Too busy to provide employees with training, coaching, or direction.
  5. Failing to respond to email and voice mail in a timely manner.
  6. Allowing employees to continuously provide poor service.
  7. Disciplining employees for behaviors they regularly exhibit themselves.
  8. Treating employees disrespectfully.
  9. Asking employees to do things they wouldn't do themselves.
  10. Making excuses for any of the above.

What bad habits would you add to this list?

Jeff Toister is the author of Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It. The book is scheduled to be released on November 1.

You can learn more about the book at or pre-order a copy on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or Powell's Books.


Study finds the lack of feedback is, uh, lacking...

A recent study by Leadership IQ found that 66% of employees feel they have too little interaction with their boss. A whopping 78% of employees surveyed did not have a clear idea of whether their boss feels their job performance is where it should be. That's right -- a majority of employees want to be managed more, not less.

The feedback employees do get is often lacking. Employees want to hear more than just 'good work' or 'you need to do better'.  When receiving positive feedback, 53% reported it wasn't specific enough to help them repeat the good performance. Sixty-five percent of employees receiving criticism felt their bosses didn't provide enough direct feedback to help them improve.

Managers are often too busy, afraid to give direct feedback, or are worried about being viewed as a micromanager by their employees. Unfortunately, this study indicates the hands-off approach can lead to real performance problems.

What can be done?

The first step is coming to terms with reality. In my own travels I hear too many leaders dismissing the art of feedback as 'too elementry' or 'common sense' and not something that deserves attention, but reality clearly doesn't match this perception. You can never get better at something if you don't think you need to.

The next step is learning how to give specific, actionable feedback. Many leaders struggle because they never receive formal training in this area, but there are plenty of resources available, including our High Performance Management workshop.

The final step is developing the habit of giving frequent constructive feedback. As the numbers in this study show, Corporate America has a long way to go.