Incompetent managers who fail to interact and guide their teams in their day-to-day roles are the major cause of Britain's culture of poor customer service, according to a new report.
Research by consultants Prosell has found that more than six out of ten people employed in customer-facing sales and service roles say that their manager’s behaviour towards them affects the level of customer service they deliver.
The research, based on a survey of more than 570 frontline workers, found that the behaviour of UK line management has a direct impact on the quality of service and brand experience that is extended to customers.
Almost half went so far as to claim that the relationship with their manager ‘always’ impacted upon the customer experience they deliver.
The relationship between managers and their teams is so bad that one in ten customer-facing workers consider it to be the biggest threat to their job security – as big a worry as the possibility of their jobs being outsourced.
But although frontline workers place a major emphasis on relations with their manager, it seems that the managers themselves may have failed to take note.
The research highlighted a host of indications that line managers are not fulfilling their responsibilities towards their teams. In short, managers are not managing.
The extent to which managers are reneging on their responsibilities is illustrated by the fact that four out of ten managers communicate with their teams for just 30 minutes or less in an average day. Just over half of managers were found to converse with their teams for an hour a day or less.
Compounding this, sixty per cent of respondents said they are not praised each time they do something well, and one in ten said that they are never praised by their manager at all, regardless of their achievements.
Praise, something that is then central to a host of business issues, from retention to performance, appears to be in scarce supply in the UK’s sales and service sectors.
Earlier this year, the fourth National Complaints Culture Survey (NCCS) found that while bosses said that customer satisfaction were one of their top priorities, this contradicted with what their own employees said about their experiences.
Just like the Prosell research, the NCCS found that customer service staff felt frustrated at the lack of support from their employers, both in improving training and acknowledging any suggestions they make to improve procedures.
They also felt that their management did not give them the autonomy to resolve problems effectively.
As the Prosell report says, given the apparent general lack of communication between manager and team, is it any wonder that the common perception of frontline workers in the UK and beyond is of individuals ill-equipped to resolve customer issues and unable to effectively communicate an organisation’s products, services and brand values?