By Bill Donovan, PhD, CAPP, Manager, Parking & Transport Services, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Customer service is a leadership issue. Few organizations would dispute the fact that customer service is one of the most important aspects of running a business. Unfortunately, customer service is too often viewed as the sole purview of frontline, customer-facing employees. To prevent customer service performance from dipping or becoming stale in time, organizational managers and other leaders must get involved.

One of the most effective ways leaders can get involved with customer service is to ensure employees understand not only their job functions, but also their purpose. Job functions are detailed in an employee’s job description (answer phones, process applications, etc.), while their purpose is the reason they are performing those job functions, such as ”provide a pleasant, hassle-free experience for our customers.” Leaders should spell out and reinforce this purpose so employees will understand that this is what they’re being paid for, and that it’s okay to step outside their functional role and do whatever it takes for the customer.

How can leaders do this? Empower employees to do the right thing for the customer. Don’t punish an employee for incurring a few minutes of overtime because they stayed late to help a customer find their vehicle in the parking garage. Set and enforce high standards of performance. Be sure to explain the reasoning behind these standards and be clear about when it is appropriate to deviate from them. And make sure employees know your organizational brand—the essence of what makes your organization what it is. They more employees understand your organization, the more they understand what your customers want and need.

Optimizing the role of frontline employees and ensuring customer service performance remains high requires leadership involvement. Ultimately, customer service performance depends on the approach and involvement of organizational leaders, not just frontline employees.