How much time do you spend on the frontline?
Out there where the day to day action is within your business. For example, side by side with your contact centre advisors as they take calls. Or out in the field with your delivery teams and service technicians.
Forgive me for asking this question. However, being on the frontline with your teams is not as easy as it should be.
Take me, as an example.
As a manager, I spent a lot of my time stuck behind a desk or trapped in a succession of meetings. Ironically, many of these meetings were about support for customer facing teams. Or feedback from consumers about their user experience with our products or services.
As a consultant, I now spend most of my time actually on the frontline.
As a result, I can actively listen directly to the voice of the customers. What’s more, I can then understand far better the challenges of the staff that engage with them.
Why is it so important to spend time on the frontline?
You only gain true insight by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and looking at your organisation (or your client’s organisation) from the outside in.
They used to say of market research that:
“A day in the field is worth a hundred at the desk”
And what is true of marketing also applies to sales, operations, customer service or any other aspect of your business.
Senior managers have incredibly demanding roles and there never seems to be enough hours in the day.
Which may explain why so many of us spend so little time interacting with the customers that buy our company’s products and services.
However, the cloak of seniority can shield you from regular direct customer contact.
As a result, you put yourself at risk of not fully understanding what your customers really want. As a further consequence, you may even miss out on ways to respond better to their rapidly changing needs.
Contrast this with the successful business leaders who go out of their way to engage with their staff and customers
Take Justin King for example. His turnaround plan – called Making Sainsbury’s Great Again – gained traction because he spent time on the shop floor communicating face to face with Sainsbury’s workers and the customers that they serve.
Or the legendary Richard Branson who is regularly seen at the sharp end of his many business ventures and is reputed never to say no to his staff’s ideas and initiatives.
Take the time to walk in your customer’s shoes
OK, so you may not be at the top of the organisation. Therefore, you have less room to escape the hidebound rules of corporate bureaucracy.
However, we can all consciously make that decision every once in a while to leave the comfort of the manager’s office and walk in the customers’ shoes.
Listen and learn. I guarantee it will be the best time investment you can make this summer.