The book LaserMonks says it best:

Going overboard with customer service only results in an excellent experience for the customer. There is never a downside.

Customer Service Leader
Customer service rules were meant to be broken. It’s a leader’s job to give his team freedom. (Tweet That)

Over time, there is no downside. And yet too many leaders and customer service managers get caught up in the minutiae. They quickly forget about all the great customer service experiences customers have and report to their friends, but they easily remember the one time that one weird guy took advantage of their generosity.

So they create more “rules” and “processes” for their team. In doing so, they stifle their creative and generous spirit. In the long run, they pay for it. They kill the spirit of their customer service reps who end up being nothing more than order takers.

Have you ever seen that happen?

I have seen that happen. In fact, I’ve done it to my team. I’ve buried them under a heap of rules, processes, and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. This was long before I learned that customer service rules were meant to be broken, as I shared recently.

The results of my leadership failure were predictable…

First, customer service reps lost their spirit.

They lost the joy of helping people. They lost their creativity. They lost the ability to think on their feet. They lost…their customer service mojo.

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And it was all my fault.

Second, customer service reps became bitter.

The more bureaucracy I put in place, the less they felt trusted. This led to bitterness.

That lack of trust is the reason I put all of these procedures in place. It’s the reason I found myself fielding questions all day. I didn’t trust my team to make the right decision 98% of the time and live with the consequences of the 2% of the time they messed up. I was a control freak.

Their bitterness led to the end results of my mistakes.

Third, customer service suffered.

Customer service reps began to use phrases such as:

  • Our policy is…
  • Management won’t let me…
  • Your contract states that…

If you are a leader, make sure your team never uses phrases like that. Ever.

Your “policy” doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter to anyone anywhere. Customers care about themselves, not you. That’s the harsh reality.

What they should have been saying was:

  • How can I make this right?
  • Let me see what I can do.
  • We messed up.

Frustration mounted as more and more customer service calls ended ugly. And the fourth result didn’t take long to occur…

Fourth, customers and team members left.

Unhappy customers flocked from our rosters. And they told ten friends about their horrible experience.

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As the angry calls increased and frustration mounted, the reps left, too. The stress was too high to bear.

The worst part

But neither of those is the worst part…

The worst part was how I responded.

The customer departures and turnover could only be due to one thing: incompetent team members. After all, this never happened when I was the only customer service rep. So I did the worst possible thing…

I created more rules and processes.

I reacted in anger and raised my iron fist to my team. I took away even more of their freedoms to make decisions for themselves. Essentially, I stripped them of their human dignity. I’ll let you take a wild guess how that went.

Once I realized the error of my ways, I corrected course and allowed my team to use their brains. I gave them the freedom they needed to help the individual callers, none of whom could be boxed in by my rules or processes. I decided to trust them. I gave them their dignity back.

Service improved. Morale soared. Customer retention rates hit all-time highs. And I could finally give up control.

My team never went too far to serve our customers. As I’ve said before, that’s nearly impossible. But they did show a control-freak how to loosen up…and they even showed a customer service professional how to truly serve others.

Have you ever seen rules and processes get in the way of genuine customer service?


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

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10 thoughts on “Customer Service Begins with the Leader | You Must Trust Your Team

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    Customer service professionals respond to how they are treated. If you treat them with respect, dignity, trust, energy, kindness, flexibility…. they will pour that into the cups of their customers.

    1. Steve Pate says:

      That is so true, and if you can figure out their personality style as well, it’s a great experience for both parties.

  2. Zech Newman says:

    Yes I have. It is our job as leaders to create thinking passionate team members not mindless robots. That is why mission statements and core values are so important to be intertwine into everything. On a side note my dad always said you are going to kill 10 paying active customers trying to “get” that one that is trying to screw you over.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is probably a good ratio Zech. You’ll chase away 10 just to keep one from taking advantage of you. Not good math.

  3. Joe Lalonde says:

    You make some excellent points in regards to customer service. If the boundaries are too rigid, the reps begin to feel stiffled and frustrated as the customers who are having issues.

  4. Jana Botkin says:

    I’ve been that customer service rep with a desire to serve and a boss who wouldn’t allow it. It is a HORRIBLE way to earn a living. That is one of the strongest reasons I became self-employed. It is a joy to truly serve others in the way that I want to be served.

    However, this week I had to resort to a “My policy is. . .” statement. Someone ordered something from me and refused to pay for it until she received it. She said, “That is just the way I do things.” Hmmm, I relented, and then had to ask her to pay for 5 months before she did so. She just called and said, “Reserve 2 calendars for me”. My husband called her back and said we’d be waiting for her check to arrive before I sent them.

    I’m weary of being made to feel as if I am wrong for expecting to be paid and am now making a conscious effort to not visit that ugly place any more.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I think you are just being reasonable. One of my favorite lines from sales was, “Free is not a good price for us.”

  5. Steve Pate says:

    So I have a question for you then, what was the “ooooh crap” moment or what tripped your heart to see the bondages you have placed on to your team? What made your eyes open to that? Great post once again!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      There was no “we.” It was entirely my doing.

      It was money. It was going out the door. Something needed to change, drastically and quickly. It couldn’t get worse, so I tried a 180…and it worked.

      1. Steve Pate says:


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