Satisfying the Customer
We're all the customers of countless companies across a wide spectrum. The corporate world exists because of customers. Regardless of what the product or service is, performance results on the job invariably mean pleasing customers in one way or another. Even if the customers are somehow far removed from the workplace, this doesn't mean they're any less important. A powerful thread running through coaching and mentoring is that they seek to shift the emphasis from pleasing the boss to satisfying the customer.
Leading and Setting the Tone
You are the leader and tone setter, of course. As such you must be humble enough to shift your employees' focus from you to your customers. That is, to the people you, as coach, and all of your employees are laboring in key ways to please. Yes, you do the hiring. You communicate. You teach. You work with your employees in devising their performance plans and setting their goals. But this is all about achieving the best possible results for the customers.
You want your employees to deliver results that are pleasing to them, of course, to you, naturally, and to the company, yes indeed. But most of all, you and your employees have to deliver results for the customers, because without customers, there would be no company, no coach, and no employees.
If you've had the good fortune — or misfortune in some instances — of working in a retail or service business, then you know full well that dealing with the walk-in public is not always an easy task. Never mind the physical work required of you, which is often grueling enough. It's the mental drain that's debilitating sometimes, as various customers say and do things to test your patience and very often your sanity. Servicing customers isn't always pretty, but it's a necessity that's got to be done and done right, because satisfying them is what will in the final analysis determine whether a business lives or dies.
Role reversal is an important tool in the coaching and mentoring repertoire. Put it into practice when you want your employees to stand in the shoes of others (such as customers). By utilizing role reversal, you usher your employees into an all-important reality laboratory.
And this truism transcends working behind the counter in a drugstore, or as a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, where customer service is measurable at the point of service. So, while you may not work face-to-face with your company's customers, the company is still in the business of giving its customers what they want and when they want it. And if your company doesn't do these two things, somebody else probably will.
For that reason, if you can take the spotlight off yourself and put it where it rightly belongs — on the customers — you'll be making the familial atmosphere of the workplace more cohesive, with everybody working together with the same objective in mind.
When you frame a job in the simple terms of pleasing customers, it is an invaluable technique to ask your employees to engage in a little role reversal by putting themselves in the customers' shoes. We're all customers. We patronize countless businesses, utilize so many services, and experience widely varying results in the process. Results that make us want to use, or not use, a particular product or service again.
When your employees see things from a customer's vantage point, they put themselves in the place of the very people they're trying to please. They see things from an unmistakably different perspective. That is, you want each employee working for you to consider:
How do I like to be treated as a customer?
What can my company do that would please me as a customer?
What can my company do to prove that we truly believe that the customer is king?
When you go a step further and ask that your employees answer their own thoughtful, open-ended questions, you're in effect asking them to think as entrepreneurs. And, as far as you're concerned, the pièce de résistance is putting these answers into action. By fully utilizing this role-reversal technique, you permit your staff to:
Think in entrepreneurial ways
Empathize with customers
Empathy is defined as understanding what somebody else is feeling, or appreciating the circumstances that another individual is in. You can't empathize with another person unless you've shared his or her experiences in a comparable way. Thus, by asking that your employees see things from their customers' perspectives, you are asking that they empathize with them.
In this role reversal, you are not only asking your employees to think like entrepreneurs, but also to fashion flexibility by seeing themselves as customers of what the company, yours and theirs, is offering as a product or a service, and how they are offering it. By doing this, you are effecting positive change and implementing new ways of thinking based on your employees' experiences in this reality laboratory. Yet another benefit of role reversal is that it enables employees to empathize with customers.
You are asking, in effect, that they translate this empathy and new understanding into a better product or service via better performances on their parts. And lastly, any kind of role reversal sharpens self-awareness. When you place your employees in their customers' worlds, you're asking them to look into their own lives and explore how they behave as customers — what does and does not satisfy them, and why.