12/07/2012

By Adrian Swinsocoe

Whilst preparing some new training materials for a client the other day, I started to think about culture and complaints in organisations and how leadership can affect the two. In my experience, when organisations grow there is a danger that entrepreneurs and/or executives can get more and more distant from real customer contact as they get caught up in capturing, measuring and reporting data on customers rather than dealing with real customer issues.

For many this distance is a challenge that they recognise and one that they try hard to rectify or to stay ‘in touch’ with what is happening at every customer contact point.
However, there are other entrepreneurs and executives who never see issues and complaints. The reason given is that it is protecting their time or that it’s someone else's role. The danger here is that this type of behaviour can end up deluding themselves and others.

What do I mean? As a leader in our organisations, I believe, we have to be constantly vigilant about what signals our behaviour and actions send to our team and our customers. Executives who:

Hide from complaints;

Delegate all complaints to others;

Believe that dealing with complaints is not the best use of their time; or

That dealing with complaints is beneath them

….. can be in danger of setting a bad example and a culture where that behaviour is acceptable. This might not be policy but you could be creating unwritten rules in your organisation?

Whilst much of this type of behaviour or organisation can stem from certain traditional leadership styles and cultures, it can create a business that is out of step with what customers need and expect.

In extreme situations, this can then create businesses which ignore or are scared of complaints such that when asked to report on them it can cause staff to cover up or distort complaints and failure statistics.

I believe much of that failure can be traced back to the leadership and culture of the organisation.

So, as leaders in business, ask yourself these questions:
How many complaints do you get in your business? How many complaints do you get involved with? Is that the right ratio? Are setting the right example?