• People seemingly unable or unwilling to take phone calls when they know there is a problem to resolve.

  • A bland email (instead of a call) with a matey introduction totally inappropriate for the message within.

  • Lack of acknowledgement or apology from business seniors if you escalate a problem.

  • Promising to phone back, and not doing it.

Recognise any of the above from your own experience?

I have recently had a bad experience as a customer, which ultimately led to me thinking about leadership and writing this blog – perhaps a more productive use of energy than a letter of complaint that may fall on deaf ears. Like many who will have shared my frustrations, all I want is for someone to take ownership and apologise, and I wonder how many people in our industry are being taught by example to do this.

Last year I wrote in a blog that true self-awareness is much rarer than we think. The automotive industry is at a pivotal stage where good leadership is required in order to manage the changes that we all face, and I hope the industry’s leaders are self-aware enough to recognise that they have the single most important part to play in creating cultures where we can be honest about mistakes, manage them and learn from them. Only they can set the tone for that.

I have seen industry leaders stand up on stage and challenge their industry to do better, deliver clear roadmaps for the future and brilliantly articulate the difficulties that lie ahead, but the challenge of applying the simple things at a national or global level means it is still the basics that are often lacking in business.

Leadership is not easy and whether you’re a CEO dealing with a global crisis or a manager speaking to a disgruntled customer about poor service, the fundamental behaviours are the same: acknowledge the problem, apologise, and get on with rectifying it. Easy as it sounds?

If only.

There is a danger of a divorce between the head and the heart in all consumer-led industries; strong customer-led behaviours are the absolute bedrock of these sectors, and if you don’t build upon that foundation you will fail, no matter how great your plan. Pick up the phone. Take it on the chin. Accept the blame. Promise to do better, then deliver that promise. These are the basics of good business. The digitalisation of everything does not preclude the need for customer service, nor for cultures that promote it.

Our April conference, “Preparing your people for the future”, will address some of the issues around leadership and talent within the industry, and how it is crucially important that we get this right.

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Like this article? You may enjoy this one: Why are we treating each other like this?