Position Papers

Position Paper:

Executive Coaching and Customer Service

     It can't be stated often enough that customer service (a corporate term) is an even more important concept in the non-profit world than in for-profit organizations. Non-profits “sell” service; corporations sell a tangible product of some kind. After 30 years as a non-profit consultant, I'm convinced that executive coaching for non-profit organizations must constantly be focused on customer service and on defining carefully who your “customers” are. For social service agencies, the focus on helping less fortunate citizens is somewhat clearer. But for colleges and cultural organizations, it can be difficult to define exactly who one is serving and to what degree: patrons, funders, the larger community, influential boards—the list goes on.

     I tell non-profit professionals that they cannot prioritize their presumed customers, and then serve them efficiently with limited resources, unless all stakeholders—board, administration, staff, community—understand their respective areas of authority, and do not try to do each other's job. Only by respecting each other's authority and appropriate responsibilities can they develop a consensus on who is being “served” in that organization's commitment to service. If board, administration, staff, and community are frequently getting in each other's way, the mission of the organization and its awareness of customers will be obscured and confused. In short, clarity of authority and a focus on customer service puts everyone on the same page, and the organization's mission is enhanced.

© 2010 by David C. Stinebeck