For Better or Worse: 10 Ways Your Managers Can Make or Break Your Customer Experience

Phil Hamburg
Phil Hamburg,
Executive Managing Director,
Root Inc.

Even in an omnichannel world, most of us view frontline employees as the final frontier in the customer experience. They’re greeting people entering your storefronts and restaurants, processing transactions, answering calls, and interacting with customers in the field. But, they’re not in it alone. Managers play a huge role too. They’re the ones responsible for arming the frontline team with the information, skills, and behaviors that will amplify your brand – for better or worse – in today’s crowded marketplace. So, it’s really, really important for leaders to empower their managers, readying them with the knowledge and expertise they need to lead their teams (and ultimately the business) to success.

The list of what to do and not to do can be daunting. So, I’m boiling that ocean down to 10 critical behaviors your managers need to exhibit in order take your customer experience from good, to great, to off-the-charts. After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?

  1. Lead by example. Managers might not be the ones to directly interact with customers on a regular basis, but they’re role models and need to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. Their teams will respect them more for knowing the business in and out and will soon be replicating the very behaviors they see their managers embody.
  2. Empower their teams. The front line needs to have the freedom to be authentic and unscripted while interacting with customers. Customers don’t want to hear a rehearsed monologue. So managers need to make sure their teams know the drill, but are confident and comfortable in letting their unique personalities shine through.
  3. Share and translate the metrics. Managers and front line employees need to know the numbers that make up your business. However, just sharing numbers with the front line is meaningless if they don’t understand the impact that they have on the business and how they influence the scores. Sharing and translating the metrics helps keep the front line engaged with the big picture – so they can always be improving.
  4. Make time to connect. Managers are the catalyst (or chokehold) of the customer experience, so leaders need to invest in and engage with managers in real and authentic ways. It’s not just about the content shared but how it is shared. Figure out what mix works for your organization and do more of it. Then, managers need to connect with their teams in the same way.
  5. Practice delegating. Managers are promoted because they’re great performers. But some have a hard time transitioning from being an individual contributor to leading a team. Leaders need to assist them through this shift, helping them understand the power of delegation and other coaching skills that characterize the best managers. It’s these managers that end up with the most engaged employees, which makes for more satisfied customers. A win all around!
  6. Be okay with not knowing. Because managers often feel they need to have all the answers, they do a lot of talking instead of listening, or feel uncomfortable simply being truthful about what they don’t know. But, the best managers realize that vulnerability is a strength – one that makes them more human – and that listening and accepting new ideas can be the best answer of all.
  7. Know the customer. Managers must always ask: Who is our customer? What do they want? What do they not want? Managers need to deeply know and understand the customer and translate this insight to their teams. The front line that exhibits empathy and can put themselves in the shoes of their customer will be the ones to meet and exceed customer expectations.
  8. Live and breathe the brand. Managers need to know your brand as well, or better, than they know your customers. Then, in turn, this knowledge needs to be shared and ingrained in the hearts and minds of the front line. A true understanding of the brand and why it’s special will help everyone deliver a unique and meaningful customer experience that conveys the personality and mission of your organization.
  9. Know what’s missing. When managers understand what the front line is not doing that customers are still asking for, they’ll be able to identify new opportunities and work on bridging the gaps.
  10. Connect personal goals to business goals. Customer is king, of course. But, we cannot forget that our customer experience will never exceed our employee experience. Managers need to view things through the eyes of their teams. What motivates them? What are their individual goals? By connecting the front line to the greater goals of the business and to their personal abilities and growth paths, they’ll feel more excited, passionate and invested.

With these 10 things in mind, your managers will be poised to really double-down on the experience they and their teams are delivering to customers. Working together, leaders, managers and the front line can bring about massive positive changes that will be revealed in repeat business and a growing bottom line!