Are You Making This Tragic Accountability Mistake?

Are You Making This Tragic Accountability Mistake?

Have you ever noticed that lack of accountability is contagious?

If you know your boss is paying close attention to your results (and how you achieve them), you’re more likely to be absolutely certain that your team is doing the right thing, at the right time. Of course, the inverse is also true. If your boss ISN’T paying attention, it’s far easier to look the other way when your team drops the ball.

Which means one overwhelmed, lazy or scared manager letting slackers slide can create a cascading effect of lost accountability.

The Multiplier Impact of Poor Accountability – One Afternoon in a Mountain Town

I was delighted to find the grocery store in the mountain town we were visiting had a new surprise— kombucha on tap! Since kombucha is my go-to book writing beverage, I bought the reusable growler and smiled as I filled it with frothy goodness.

But the next week, when I came back for a refill, all I heard were sloppy squirts of messy air. The kombucha tap had run dry.

Trying to be helpful, I went to the folks working the deli counter (immediately adjacent to the empty kombucha dispenser.)

“I’m not sure if you know this, but the kombucha dispenser seems to be empty.”

“Lady, that’s not my job. You should go find a manager somewhere to tell that to.”

Whoa. Really?  “Ummm, do you think YOU could find a manager and let them know?”

“That’s not my job.”

Oh boy. Sometimes I just can’t help myself. It’s hard to teach accountability and leadership as frequently as I do, and just let a scene like this go.

So I went and found an Assistant Manager and explained the employee’s response—at this point kombucha was not the issue.

“Oh yeah. That’s bad. But I can’t do anything about it. You’ll need to tell the manager.”

Yeah, I’m starting to get the picture.

I’ll give her this much, she sent the manager to find me as I continued to shop.

So I explained what I do for a living and why I care.

“I hear you,” he said, “But there is nothing I can do about it. It’s these damn millennials. They just don’t care. There’s nothing I can do. Do you have any suggestions?”

Well, of course, I do. I have a whole book of suggestions.

A Quick Winning Well Training in the Frozen Food Aisle

So I shared a few fundamentals, right there in the frozen food section—while a bag of frozen edamame was melting in my hands.

He listened intently.

And then he just shook his head.

“That all sounds great, and I’m sure it works at other companies. It just won’t work here.”


“Store managers have no power here anymore. It used to be you could run your store and make a difference. Now everything is run from corporate and HR doesn’t let us hold people accountable.”

Hmmmm, I wondered about that one. I’d love to hear the other side of that story.

“But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Let me go over there right now and talk to that employee, using the technique you shared.”

“Great,” I said.

And then I watched him walk off in the opposite direction from the deli counter, still holding my empty growler.

See Also

Your turn. What advice do you have for preventing a lack of accountability from being contagious?

a remarkably easy way to get better customer feedback

A Remarkably Easy Way to Get Better Customer Feedback

Do you have a good way to tap into the customer feedback your employees are hearing every day?

Are your frontline employees trained and equipt to be true customer advocates?

Do they feel like their voice is being heard?

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that David and I are in the middle of in-depth research on courageous cultures, which puts us on high alert for best practices in problem-solving, micro-innovation and customer advocacy.

So when we were in Nashville for a keynote, we met up with Nate Brown Founder of the CX Accelerator Lab, a really cool, free slack community of customer experience professionals.

He had such a perfect example of a micro-innovation that taps into customer feedback. I couldn’t wait for our book to be published to share.

I’m giving you a sneak peek because I think you could benefit from this Do It Yourself, Voice of the Customer idea right now!

He tells the story better than I can. Watch how he uses a simple USB web key button to empower employees to give real-time customer feedback. And then, he integrates it with other Voice of the Customer data.

Nate says they now have more and better quality customer feedback than ever before. Employees are more engaged in the process and interested in the outcomes.

That’s the power of micro-innovation and customer advocacy.

Why the Button Works for Better Customer Feedback

Nate shared why the CX Magic button works like magic on the CX Accelerator blog.

Omni-channel – The button works for any and all types of feedback coming in.  This could be a phone call to support, an email, a conversation at a trade show, an executive seated next to a customer on a plane, a social media post, or just about anything else.  The simplicity of it makes this level of flexibility possible.

A Tangible Reminder – You may already be thinking, “What’s the point of the button?  Why not just have everyone bookmark the feedback form?”  If you take a quick look at all the dozens of sites you currently have bookmarked, the answer will be clear.  Having a physical button right there in front of you sets this program apart from the everyday noise.  We literally bought buttons that FLASH!  There is power in having a constant visual reminder of this great channel that has been created to enhance the Customer Experience.

Extreme Ease of Use – From the very beginning, we designed the program to be remarkably easy for the employee entering the feedback.  Even small barriers to the process of entering feedback will result in dramatically reduced participation.  Make it a quick, rewarding experience for all involved.  And of course…don’t forget to close the loop to earn credibility!

Not Just For Customers – The form you create can have a tab for employee feedback as well.  Give your people a channel to voice any hurdles they may encounter while delivering outstanding CX.  This is sure to have a positive impact on your CES (customer effort score) both internally and externally.

But It Could Be For Customers! – Talk about an amazing technique to blow your VIP customers away…give them a button of their own.  Let them know that this is generally reserved for employees only, but you value their feedback so much that you’d like for them to have one.  I can’t imagine a better way to transform a simple piece of plastic into a life-long loyalty enhancer!

You can hear more from Nate and his magic button in his interview on the Voices of CX Podcast

Your turn.

Nate Brown, Karin Hurt, David DyeDo you have micro-innovation that’s making a difference for you and your team? How do you help your employees become better customer advocates? We would love to hear your story (and perhaps even include it in our next book.) Leave a comment here, or reach out to us at

customer service

Transforming the Customer Experience and Great Customer Service: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on customer service. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on these topics.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!


In Memorium: Bill Gessert

Bill GessertThis month, we lost Bill Gessert, the President of the International Customer Association and a passionate thought leader in building a better customer experience through better cultures. Bill was the first person to take a chance on me as a keynote speaker (while I still had my day job at Verizon), and over the years our friendship has grown.

And so today, I share some of Bill’s insights on leadership and customer service.

Here is the 2012 interview I did with him when my blog was first starting out. It’s also my pleasure to bring you  Shep Hyken’s interview with Bill Gessert on Shep’s Amazing Business Radio here about great ideas for Customer Service week.

Creating Deeper Customer Connection and Showing Up Human

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader  Gives us How Organizations Need to Confirm Humanity. Customers have to confirm humanity during online transactions. Organizations that want to deliver a great user and customer experience should confirm their humanity online as well. Here’s how. Follow Paul.

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer shares A Piece of Cake Cements a Customer Relationship. A birthday cake seems like a simple thing but getting the right cake for the right person, customized just the right way is a little more complicated and it takes a little help from the right person to make the right cake.  Follow Eileen.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership provides Time for Spring Cleaning: Clean Up Your Values. Clearly articulated values are the bedrock of great customer service. And without them, you are likely to lose customers, as this true story demonstrates.  Follow Jesse.

Customer service is just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never-ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate type of activity. – Leon Gorman

Correlating the Employee Experience to the Customer Experience

Nate Brown, Karin Hurt, David Dye

Nate Brown of CX Accelerator with Jenny Dempsey gives us Promoting Mental and Physical Well-Being in Service Roles.  How can we create an environment that gives life instead of sucking it out of us? How can we foster the type of relationships across our teams that encourage instead of tear down? This article will provide dozens of simple ideas to help you promote both mental and physical health for your team.  Follow Nate.

Nate and I also recently collaborated on this ICMI article, Why Survival Mode Kills the Customer Experience

We had a great opportunity to visit with Nate in his natural habitat in his contact center during customer service week. So exciting to see all the creative ideas he has to gather insights from employees on what customers need most, as well as to strengthen the employee experience for a better customer experience.

Sophie Blumenthal of Resume Library shares The Pros and Cons of Having a Part-Time Job, detailing the PROs and CONs of having a part-time job. Pay attention and make sure to use this knowledge as wisely as possible when searching for a job, and the relevancy of having customer service skills. Follow Sophie.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents Why It Is Imperative to Break Down Silos Now, and Five Ways to Do It. She shares that building trust, fostering collaboration, and being a role model lessens the friction points within your company, creates more productive alliances, and helps create superior customer service – and offers key tips to doing these three things effectively.  Follow Robyn.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us A Strong Internal Brand = Engaged Employees = Happy Customers. Internal branding is about communicating the company brand strategy and promise to employees so they can play an integral role in helping any company deliver on its goals, which in turn creates happy customers, and a more successful business.  Follow David.


Leadership in Customer Service

Erica Marois of ICMI  writes, Ready to Promote Your Star Agent to Supervisor? Not So Fast. It’s a common scenario in the contact center: when a supervisor positions open up, leaders turn to their best frontline agents to fill those roles. The problem? Best agents don’t always make the best managers. This article explores how to equip new supervisors to lead. Follow Erica.

Building a Better Customer Experience

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us Lessons from Helicopter Pilots as an example of great customer service.  Follow Shelley.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited  shares Five Things a Real Professional Should Not Say.  Customer service reps, take note.  A simple change in wording can make for warmer, more effective service. Follow Beth.

Customer Service Tools and Automation

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC provides How to Improve Customer Service When You Don’t Have Time.  Failing to offer excellent customer service can chase consumers away. Use these five tips to improve customer service, even when you’re a busy small business owner.  Follow Rachel.

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer gives us Ten Tips to Move Customer Service from Drab to Fab!  Don’t just pay lip service to the idea of improving customer service. Good customer service is the linchpin to survival at any time but especially during difficult times. Follow Eileen.

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership DevelopmentYou should not build your customer service system on the premise that your organization will never question the whims of your clients. – Richard Branson

Won’t You Join Us Next Month?

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about building great cultures. New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Teachable Moments: Learning to Win Well the Hard Way

When I told “John” what I did for a living, he chuckled. “Oh, I learned how to be a good leader the hard way.” 

Don’t we all. 

It’s often our most klutsy moves that teach us how to Win Well.

John’s Story

Here is “John’s” story. I hope you’ll share yours with our LGL community in the comments below.

I was the VP of well-known hotel chain. We’d been preparing for a month for Bob, our COO’s,  annual visit to our region.  This was our moment to shine. 

I’d staffed that day with our top-notch managers who were all on point to be sure every guest was getting white glove treatment. I’d personally done the rounds to ensure we were prepared. I checked everything from the lightbulbs to the kitchen inventory.  I even had the staff practicing their elevator pitches for any skip level meetings, to ensure they could discuss their results in just the right way.

 I’d left nothing to chance. Or so I thought.

The day of the visit, he asked to walk around unescorted. I wasn’t worried, my staff was ready to show him all our best practices.

You can imagine how shocked I was when he pulled out his Moleskin on the way back to the airport with a long list of problems he’d uncovered. The brakes were squeaking in one of the shuttle vans.  One hotel was consistently running out of shampoo. One manager was having terrible trouble recruiting maid staff. The list went on and on.

Embarrassed, I looked at Bob and asked how he’d possibly uncovered so many issues in such a short period of time.

Bob said matter of factly, “I just asked every employee I met if there was anything they needed to create a better customer experience.  And they told me. Simple as that.”

“When’s the last time YOU asked?”

That was a critical turning point in my leadership journey. 

I’d been so busy working to tell people what needed to be done, I’d completely overlooked the obvious point. They were the ones with the answers. I needed to ask, not tell.

I’ve found that’s the answer to almost every real management challenge. Ask more questions. Listen. And respond. 

customer experience

What To Do When The Customer is Wrong

The only problem with the concept, “The customer is always right,” is that sometimes they’re wrong.

If you’ve been in any kind of customer-facing position, I know you’re with me.

Sure, there are many, many circumstances where the only choice is to bite your tongue and concede, for the good of the customer experience.

But some wrong is just, well…wrong.

It takes confident humility to stand up to a customer when they’re doing something unethical, immoral, or discriminatory. Winning Well managers know that the MIT (most important thing) at a time like that is to stand clearly on the side of right.

Rick, the retired Amtrak conductor I met on my Southwest flight did just that.

When Employees are More Important Than Customers

My assistant conductor, Loretta came to me and said matter-of-factly, “There’s a guy in the second car, who refuses to give me his ticket.”

“Does he have a ticket?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he does.”

“Why won’t he give it to you?” I continued, now sensing an undercurrent of hurt beneath her frustration, as the color drained from her dark skin.

“Well, I have a theory.”

“I’ll be right back.”

I approached the old, balding man, “Hi Sir, the other conductor said you refused to give her your ticket.”

He laughed, “Oh, I’m happy to give it YOU. I just won’t give it HER.”

“Well then, you have a problem. You see Loretta is the only one who takes the tickets. But since yours is the next stop. I’ll take it this time.”

“Oh no, I’m getting off in Albany.”

“No sir, you are getting off at the next stop. And if you refuse, I’ll be happy to make a phone call to get you some help getting off.”

I then held the train at the next stop and explained the situation to the agent at the ticket window. He could feel free to refund his money, but under no circumstances was he to sell the meanie a ticket.

Winning Well Karin Hurt and David DyeRick sent a clear message to Loretta, her peers and all the customers watching the spectacle. Loretta’s dignity is what mattered most. Bigotry, even from a paying customer, was completely unacceptable.

Rick was Winning Well.

When the customer is wrong. Say so.

Everyone is watching your next move.

When to Break the Rules

I’m sitting next to Rick, a retired railroad engineer, on a delayed Southwest flight from Tampa to Baltimore. It’s been a LONG week of serial cancelled flights, and other travel frustrations. I’m wearing the same suit I wore in Detroit on Tuesday because I never did make it home between gigs.

Rick doesn’t seem to notice the wrinkles, as we begin swapping travel nightmare stories.

It was the middle of winter and the train was headed through a really rural section of upstate New York. The snow was coming down so hard you couldn’t see the sky, when the train stopped dead on the tracks—serious engine trouble. After several hours of waiting for help, it was clear we had a very long night ahead of us.

The café car ran out of food. The passengers were one Snickers bar short of a riot.

Jeff (whom Rick proudly pointed out he had trained), went to the café car attendant and said, we’ve got to solve this problem—people need to eat. Please give me some cash, I’m going to find food.

Jeff then trudged through the snow to the Kentucky Fried Chicken and said he needed 159 chicken dinners.

The kid behind the counter looked panicked, “Look, man, I want to help and I’ve got the chicken, but I don’t have enough staff to cook all that!”

Jeff smiled, “No worries, I used to work at a KFC. Let me just wash my hands and come back and help you.”

I can only imagine the eruption of applause as Jeff returned smelling of grease and salt, and began handing out free chicken.

It’s hard to be cranky with a drumstick in your hand.

Many customers took the time to write Amtrak with commendations. Amtrak fully supported his out of the box thinking.

Two weeks later his boss wrote him up for having his hat on crooked.

FREE Winning Well Assessment

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