I am hearing more and more from clients, particularly those that deal with consumers directly, that customers are increasingly rude and unkind, and sometimes downright nasty. As a leader, it’s critical to remember that you have a very important role to support your employees. Your staff need to know that you not only take responsibility for creating a high-performance environment and giving them tools to do exceptional work, but that they can also count on you to stand up for them when they need your help.
As a leader, you must support your employees
Earlier this year, I was at a resort in BC’s Columbia Valley and a sign posted prominently in several locations around the property caught my attention.
WELCOME TO COPPER POINT RESORT. WE, LIKE MANY OTHERS, ARE SHORT STAFFED. PLEASE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ENERGY YOU BRING INTO THIS SPACE. YOUR WORDS MATTER. YOUR BEHAVIOURS MATTER. OUR TEAMS MATTER. THANK YOU.
Reading this was, for me, a refreshing and very positive change.
I remember one of my first jobs in my teenage years at a fast-food establishment. I made a small error in a customer’s order (I put cream in his coffee when he had requested it black) and was then verbally abused by said customer. We’re not talking a roll of the eyes or raised eyebrows; he questioned my intelligence, suggested I should get more training, and even said a few things that would be considered racist today. I was 16 and timid, so I apologized and immediately fixed the mistake, but he continued to shout and berate me until I was reduced to tears. To appease him, my manager comp’d his entire meal (not just the coffee, but four hamburgers and sides). And then, proceeded to publicly scold me for my error and for the cost of the free food he gave away.
I recall I was devastated. To my young mind, it felt like I had been betrayed. Why didn’t my manager stop that nasty man from saying horrible uncalled-for things? And why was he scolding me, in front of everyone, for a minor mistake that I had already fixed. As for the cost of the food he gave away – I couldn’t understand why he comp’d the whole meal instead of just the coffee.
The customer is NOT always right!
It turns out that I learned a very important lesson about leadership that day. That leaders need to take ownership for creating an environment in which their staff can thrive and flourish. The old adage – the customer is always right – isn’t. Sometimes they’re not. And when that happens, your staff need to know that you’ll support and defend them. When your employees know that you have their backs, they are engaged and motivated. And everyone, including your customers (at least the profitable ones), will reap the benefits.
I’d love to know what you think. Are you working in an environment where your leaders support and back you up. Or are you thrown to the wolves when things go awry? Perhaps more importantly, what are you doing to create a workplace environment in which you support your employees and they feel valued and advocated for? Tell us more by adding a comment below.