The concept of management customer service

I recently bought a laptop from one of the leading consumer PC vendors. It was not the best experience of my life. From the moment I placed the order online to the moment I sent it back, it's been a litany of confusion, frustration and dysfunction. I'm sure you can relate on some level.

But what I think was most disappointing was the customer service - or lack thereof - I've been exposed to. This company goes out of its way to promote its customer-friendly philosophy, but in my experience it's all talk. I really dig companies that put forth this customer-first attitude and it bummed me out to see it was not true - at least in my case.

This got me thinking about how, if I were on the "front lines" of customer interaction, I'd be different. But then I realized, I am on the front lines, just a different front. Just because we're managers doesn't mean we don't have "customers." Are customers are our employees, who in turn may deal with those we traditionally view as clients.

Just like we expect customer service reps to treat us well, so should we hold ourselves to that same standard. Here are some ideas on how you can improve - or maintain - excellent management customer service:

* Answer their e-mail/phone calls promptly. It sounds like a no-brainer, but we all know how it can all pile up. If you had time to only answer one e-mail before you left for the day and you had to choose between one from your employee or one from a client, you'd go for the client. You'd figure your employee would understand, and while that may be true, if you keep delaying your responses, they won't forever. Consider those employee e-mails or phone calls as important as those from your clients and return them both.

* Listen, listen, listen. In today's go-go world, it can be hard to slow down and concentrate on the person talking to you - especially if you're at your desk. E-mail comes in, the phone rings, there's pressing stuff to do on the computer screen; you figure you can listen and work at the same time. You could, but what kind of signal does it send to your staffer? How annoying is it when you're checking out at a store and the cashier is on the phone or talking to the clerk at the next register? Same thing.

* If you make a mistake, apologize. If you can do it in person, do that - then send an e-mail. If not, call then e-mail. I'm not suggesting you go begging on your knees, but the added e-mail underscores your sincerity.

* If you have an open-door policy, keep your door open. Closing it is like trying to call a 24-hour tech support center that's closed when you call.

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