You can’t overstate the benefits of management by walking around. Janet, my wife, our friend Bruce, and I went to Duke’s Chowder House in the South Lake Union area of Seattle for Sunday lunch. The views are of sailboat masts, looking out over a marina toward the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). The food is dependably good and we’ve always enjoyed Duke’s.

We were seated quickly by a pleasant host. Water was delivered quickly to our table by an equally pleasant employee. Trevor, our waiter, provided exemplary service, even anticipating our needs while keeping an appropriately low profile. The food was really good, but this isn’t supposed to be a restaurant review, it’s a blog about customer service.

All of the customer service providers, to this point, had been wonderfully competent at making us feel welcome and wanted. Then, the manager stopped by our table to see how everything was. It’s no surprise, I’m sure, to know that all was well and we said so. He thanked us and went on to the next table. If there had been a problem we wouldn’t have hesitated to say so and give him the opportunity to make it right. As important as solving a problem with a customer is, however, learning from the experience.

Whenever we have the privilege to interact directly with a customer, we are able to get several powerful benefits from it:

  • Learning what the customer really thinks. With commonly used quantitative surveys of common metrics, it’s easy to hide behind numbers (incomplete data) and miss the nuance that can transform an ordinary experience to an extra-ordinarily positive experience.
  • Getting ideas of how to perform at a higher level, even to innovate. While it’s certainly true that there are times when customers don’t realize they need a product or service until they see it, they can also be a tremendous source of innovative ideas for new products and services.
  • Hearing any problems and resolving them to the customer’s satisfaction. My late boss, Mike Costello, drilled into our heads that the manner in which we solve a customer’s problem can win us a customer for life.

Receiving a visit from the restaurant manager made us feel important. More than that, however, it provided the manager with an opportunity to connect with his customers, to possibly get some new, innovative ideas, and an opportunity to hear any problems and resolve them in a hurry.

Are you, as a manager, visiting your end-users and other customers regularly to learn their ideas and solve their problems?

In my leadership training seminar, we discuss the benefits of management by walking around. Check it out.

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