New customer service programs are sweeping corporate America. Named “Customer Satisfaction” or “Quality Service” or “Continuous Improvement,” they all focus on improving the customer’s experience with the company. Training is aimed at the service provider and promises new market share, improved profits, and happier customers. Unfortunately, these programs often fail. Why?

Customer service is not implemented just at the service provider level, but by the entire organization. Employee attitude is critical at every point of contact, making leadership the vital issue. Confusion can exist at various management levels about how to support and implement these sweeping programs. Without total management involvement, these programs are doomed. Customer Satisfaction works when the culture of the entire company is affected. Every manager must be able to communicate what customer satisfaction is and what it looks like. What kinds of leadership behaviors are needed for success and what behaviors are negative? How do we manage hand-offs from department to department? How do we prevent black holes that trap customers? How do we keep the customer from hearing, “It’s not my job,” even when it isn’t? how do we encourage speed at all levels?

These are important programs, but they cannot succeed unless senior and middle managers are ready to implement them across the board, not only at the customer-facing roles.