Leading a customer–centric organisation

Leaders and customer service professionals within the Civil Service recently had the opportunity to consider best-practices and how to lead a customer-centric organisation.

This session was part of the ongoing programme to support our 5-Year Strategic Plan’s priority goals for 2018: Develop Exceptional Leadership and Deliver Outstanding Customer Experience (Goals 1 and 2). It is also part of efforts to build civil servants’ capacity to achieve Government’s broad outcomes.

After the event that capped off his work with the Civil Service, keynote speaker Shep Hyken sat down with Donna Bush from CIGTV to share key messages.


DB: Shep, you’re here in the Cayman Islands and you came to be with us civil servants today. Tell us what your message was.

SH: The message is about delivering amazing service to your customers. “Customers” defined as a tourist coming in, somebody coming in to do business with your country, or it could be someone you work with – your internal customers, as well.

DB: What do you want the takeaway to be today?

SH: The biggest takeaway is that you manage the moment – that interaction you have with the other person – because there are three different directions it could go. It could be a negative moment, which I call a moment of misery. It could be average or mediocre – I call that a moment of mediocrity – and then it could be a moment of magic.

The goal is to create a positive experience. A moment of magic is anything that is just a little bit above average. But when you’re consistent and it is predictable, then that is an amazing experience.

DB: What would you say to frontline customer service representatives?

SH: There are several things. First of all, I believe that customer service is not a department and it is not just for the front line. It is a philosophy to be embraced by everybody.

When I came into the country yesterday and had to clear immigration and customs, I was going through that process of waiting in line, I get to the front, and that person engages me and they were very friendly. I said, Ahhh! This is island hospitality.”

These people have the opportunity to make or break impressions not just about the department, but the whole culture that we’re here for. I think that’s an awesome responsibility – where one person represents everybody.

I can see that if I’m here on vacation with my wife and my kids, and the first person I encounter is the one handing my passport over. They’re friendly and they’re engaging. I get through and I go, “You know what? The people in this country are just so friendly.” And it wasn’t the people – it was just one person.

That’s the awesome opportunity and responsibility that each one of those frontliners has.

DB: As you look at the Cayman Islands Civil Service – and the goal of the Deputy Governor to make it a World-Class Civil Service focusing this year particularly on leadership and customer service, would you say that maybe there may come a time where some people – after being trained and retrained, receiving messages such as yours – that some people might not be in the right place? They might need to be moved somewhere else?

SH: It happens in every organisation – somebody has their job here so what can we do to let them keep their job? If they’re in the wrong job, let’s get them to the place where they belong.

There are people, for example, who hate to file. If you give me a stack of files, I can probably do two or three, but after I get to the tenth one, I am going to explode. Yet, the person next to me… that might be their favourite thing in the world to do and they would hate to get up on a stage in front of people to do what I do. We need to find the right job for the right person.

There’s an organisation in the US called Baptist Health South. They’re out of Miami and they’re a healthcare chain. Brian Keeley is their CEO. He created this idea of destination employment. Meaning that they would hire the right people to come to work for them and they would be there forever. Not necessarily in that same job, but they won’t want to go anywhere else and they would want to do well.

That’s what I think we need to do here, as well.

When you work with the government, maybe it is a destination opportunity. You get great benefits. It’s an opportunity. And if we do it right, people will want to work with us and as a result of wanting to, we treat them right. They will engage better with the people they work with, as well as the outside customers.

DB: What would you say the next steps should be for the Deputy Governor?

SH: One of the first things I would do is sit down and prove to everyone – including the people that were not here in this audience – that every single one of them has an impact on customer experience.

I talked about this a little bit in the speech, and I used an airline example. At the front line, we have people who make reservations, who check you in, check your bags at the curb, etc. What is happening behind these obvious top line touchpoints? If behind the scenes, there are different departments and different people that impact the overall experience, we have to show them where they fit in.

DB: How do we engage the 3,000+ people outside of the ones that were in this room today?

SH: I shared ten real simple pieces of information. Ten comments and ideas that I hope were emphasised enough here for the leaders to take them back to work and share them with the team. So that’s the start. We need to make everyone aware.

First step is they understand what our credo is – it’s making the lives of those we serve better. So we understand what that is, that’s the mantra, the credo, the purpose. When you have a one sentence statement, you have to communicate it and train people to it. Training is not something you just do when someone comes on board, its constantly reinforced.

I did an exercise where I asked everyone to write down an example of when they created a positive experience. That shouldn’t be done one time. That should be done once a week so that employees understand what delivering experience means. They should not just be writing this down and turning it into their manager, however. Their manager/leader should be encouraging them and sharing their experiences with the rest of the team.

We are creating best practices for one another and individually. That’s what that exercise does. There are other exercises that I’ve shared that you might see popping up as well down the road.

DB: How important is it for the leader of the various departments to get the message right so that what their department is doing is right?

SH: Leadership is where it starts. We have already defined our purpose, so the leader needs to communicate that and make sure that it’s trained. Then, they need to demonstrate it and be the role model.

You can’t yell at your team members and say, “You’re doing a lousy job!” and then expect them to go out there and be nice to the customer.

You can’t treat your team members one way and expect them to treat people another way. The employee golden rule goes like this: do unto the people you work with as you would want people to do unto your customers. If not, even better. Set the tone inside and that is what’s going to happen.

I just had an article come out and that says, “before you can have a good customer experience, you have to have a good employee experience.” I had a little cartoon and it showed two people in a customer call centre with a broken headset and a dingy computer with the window cracked. The employee said, “I hate this place – the computer doesn’t work, the headset doesn’t work and there’s no air conditioning!” And the woman next to him said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they treated us the way they want us to treat our customers?” So the leader’s job is really important!

DB: There are some customer service champions throughout the Civil Service. What are some pages that we can take out of the book of those people to help us with our customer service?

SH: One of the ideal situations would be for people to share what they’re doing and why it works. What would happen if 3,500 people wrote down an experience that they created for either an internal or external customer that was positive? Then, if their leader looked at them and gave feedback and chose the best of the best examples that might be universal to compile a best practice manual? This manual would be based on not the things that we as leaders think should be done but as our people are doing.

There’s a great organisation in the US called Zappos. Every year they come out with what they call their culture book. It’s a nice thick book because they have thousands of employees. Everyone is asked a question like “What do you like about working at Zappos?” or “What is your personal mission when you work at Zappos?”

If we did a similar book that asked “What’s the best example of service that you provided?” and we ask everybody to come up with three or four sentences, we could write a nice thick book and use it as a nice tool of appreciation.

As a manager, you can go through and maybe once a week to choose one example to share with the team and talk about it. This is a great way to use everybody else’s examples as the learning tools on how to deliver great service.

DB: Finally, the Deputy Governor’s goal is to have a World-Class Civil Service and you’re part of that by being here today. So what would you say to the Deputy Governor after today’s presentation to some of his leaders and customer service champions?

SH: Baby steps. Let us set a plan together to recognise that we have go to do more training. We’ve got a great start here but there were thousands of our colleagues that weren’t in this room. We have to teach these people how to share the message.

One of the most important things – I know there are leaders in here who probably don’t interact as much as they could – we need to teach them coaching skills so that they can coach to good service and coach to good behaviours. We need to coach to a lot of different things beyond customer service. A coaching skill for these leaders would be an excellent place to start.

Another thing is consistency. If we’re going to put a message out there, we need to ensure that one half of the room is getting the same message as the other half of the room. Ideally, we want everyone using the same language/terminology and should be in alignment.

DB: Shep, it’s been great.

SH: It’s been awesome. Thank you so much for having me.