Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why a Good Manager Must be Accessible to Customers and Employees

In best-selling books on leadership and management, you'll find a lot of platitudes about taking charge of the situation and being innovative. Those are important qualities for any manager, of course, but the reality is that being successful often comes down to a lot of small details and getting issues taken care of. In other words, simply being consistent and reliable is every bit as important as having a big, inspired vision.
One part of your work and career where that's particularly true has to do with your accessibility. That is, if customers and employees feel like you are available to discuss issues as they come up, they'll feel like you're doing a great job, and that they are being included. If it seems like you aren’t accessible, on the other hand, the impression might be that you don't care, or that you aren't focused on the job at hand.

So, how do you make sure that customers and employees know you’re accessible? Here are a few great tips to get you started:

Have multiple ways that people can get in touch. Carrying a cell phone is a good start, but you should have other ways for customers and employees to reach you. That can be especially important for some customers who might only be able to reach you after hours, or would prefer to put their thoughts into an email. The more ways people have to get in touch with you, the more accessible you seem.

Post office hours with signs or reminders. Sometimes, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. That's why virtually every manager should have office hours that they stick to, and that are posted for customers and employees to see. The more you have people coming to you in person, the less back-and-forth communication is needed to resolve issues. Plus, an in-person visit makes customers and employees feel like they're getting more of your attention.

Remember that customers keep a business in business. Some managers are intentionally inaccessible, because they don't like the fact that customers might come to them with small, seemingly inconsequential problems. But, as the old axiom goes, if you don't take care of your customers, someone else will. From a financial standpoint, keeping existing customers is more profitable and less costly than finding new ones is. Besides, most issues can be resolved quickly and simply, so make customer satisfaction a priority.

But also keep in mind that employees matter, too. The same goes for your employees. When you lose someone valuable on your team, it typically costs you 5 to 10 times their pay to replace them. Some of the busiest managers pay close attention to customers, but neglect their own employees, or don't take their concerns seriously. But, remember that your employees are the face of your company when you aren't around. If they are dissatisfied, it won't be long before your customers are, too.

Remember that being accessible means more than simply being reachable. Of course, being reachable by telephone, or keeping regular office hours, is important to your accessibility as a manager. Remember, though, that being present is just as much of a requirement as simply being in the room or on the phone. In other words, when a customer or employee comes to see you about something, they should be able to get your full, undivided attention. Learn to deal with one person, and issue, at a time and you'll be much more successful as a leader and manager.

Are you as accessible as you could be to your customers and employees? Most of us could stand to make more of an effort, especially when we are busy and distracted with lots of projects at once. But, one of the keys to keeping customers happy – and keeping your best employees working for you – is being easy to find and talk to, so make that one of your top priorities.