As a Situational Leadership II (SLII) instructor, I teach hundreds of leaders each year how to adapt their leadership style to the needs of their direct reports. Beginners on a new task get a Directing Style; moderately skilled employees get a Coaching or Supporting Style; and highly skilled employees get a Delegating Style. The SLII leadership model has a 30-year track record of quickly and effectively helping people succeed at their work tasks.
I recently had an opportunity to experience this technique from the customer’s point of view while setting up an account with a Microsoft technician so that I could access one of their buildings to train an upcoming class. Before we began, he assessed my technological skill and said, “Since you’re new to this, would it help if I walked you through the steps to ensure your success?”
Wow, I thought to myself. As a beginner on accessing this information, I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure it out alone. What a gift it was to me to have a highly directive level of support! Because I had no experience in this specific area, that was exactly what I needed.
Today’s internal and external customers are looking for personalized, specific, efficient attention. They want people to serve them in the way they would like to be served and give them exactly what they need in the shortest amount of time possible. For example, a customer who is new to a task or product is hoping someone will share steps about how to do the task or use the product. They don’t want to be told, “It’s easy. You’ll figure it out.” A customer who has great ideas but is not terribly experienced is looking for a service provider who will patiently ask clarifying questions and listen carefully to the answers while ensuring the customer’s lack of experience doesn’t lead them down the wrong path.
Service Flexibility Quiz
Let’s see how flexible you are in giving people exactly what they need. Take this quick assessment. Rank yourself on a scale from 1 (I can’t do this) to 6 (I’m a rock star at this!) on each point below:
|When a customer is new to a task or skill (such as using a product or service), I can clearly detail outcomes, timelines, and steps to take and also give examples of what a good job looks like.||______|
|When a customer is frustrated and still learning to do something, I can explain or ask them why the task is important, listen to their concerns, and re-teach where needed.||______|
|When a customer lacks confidence but can do the task (use the product or service), I can quiet my voice and reinforce their ideas for how to do the task.||______|
|When someone has demonstrated success and is fired up, I can purposely value their contribution in the way they like to be valued and use their great ideas in future situations.||______|
|When someone asks for my help, I can focus on the task and their specific development level before choosing what I say or do.||______|
|I purposely practice leader behaviors such as listening, praising, and sharing clear timelines and action plans that are out of my comfort zone.||______|
|I think before I speak/share: What does this particular person need to be able to take action?||______|
|I find it easy to listen to people’s ideas when they are hesitant to share because they lack confidence in their competence.||______|
If you scored 40-48, you are a rock star at these behaviors! Your flexibility enables people to take clear action and move forward on their goals. You develop people when they need it; listen to them when they lack confidence and aren’t competent; and delegate the task when they are competent and committed.
If you scored 30-39, you are flexible, yet you could benefit from determining the specific type of help a customer needs before you speak or interact. Increase your flexibility by withholding your thoughts and encouraging theirs if they have been successful at the task, can teach a customer or show an example, or can show you the steps for how they might proceed.
If you scored 29 or less, you might need to work on your skills of being other-focused. Pay attention if you see that someone is still learning and needs you to provide clarity on what to do and how to do it. Or, if you check in with a person who has successfully done the task or used your product or service and find that they feel motivated and confident about their ability to move forward, you can go ahead and trust their talent—let them make the decision about what to do in the future.
Great customer service is about caring to give people what they need, not only what we want or know how to do. Develop your skills to serve customers completely. Learn how to assess and deliver the appropriate style when needed—and you’ll be on your way to delivering Legendary Service.
Dr.Vicki Halsey is VP of Applied Learning and coauthor (together with Ken Blanchard and Kathy Cuff) of the new book, Legendary Service: The Key Is to Care now available in bookstores everywhere. You can read an excerpt from the book, download an online quiz, and learn more about Legendary Service at this book page.