The Most Powerful Distinction Between Customer Service and Leadership

Dr. Steven Ghim


With so many practices delivering comparable products and services to their patients (also known as customers), standing out from the competition often boils down to just one thing—customer service. The best organizations, though, grasp that customer service and leadership are not the same. The difference centers on whether you are managing or empowering your team.

Management Vs Leadership

On a basic level, customer service management is making sure your team has all the tools and processes for interacting with customers. It’s technical concerns, such as getting the team to start on time or fill out the right form. It also includes analysis, such as reviewing comments in reviews or your net promoter score. Generally speaking, you have one person, the manager, who is telling everyone else what to do.

But leadership means that you are teaching your customer service team what the right thing to do is so that when they have to act or make a decision, they already know the next step to take. This approach ensures they can independently and efficiently move forward in a way that reduces risks. It usually means that the customer service representatives can meet or even go above and beyond what your customers expect.

Great Customer Service Starts with Those in Charge

Looking at this distinction, world-class customer service can’t come from the bottom. It has to come from the top, with those who truly run or own the practice modeling the example they want to see. Hypocrisy or mixed messages, such as expecting your team to show up on time when you’re constantly late yourself, simply don’t work.

Even as you accept the bulk of the responsibility for your practice’s culture, the top-down leadership and customer service philosophy connects directly to your hiring process. Anyone you put in positions of authority has to model what you want right alongside you, so take care that you bring in people with the right attitude.

Money Is No Substitute

If an organization has poor leadership, then what often happens is that it ends up spending hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars to train and equip the customer service staff to compensate. The leaders think that, if the team just has a certain script or resource, if they just manage more effectively, then everyone will be able to deliver faster and better and the customer will be more satisfied.

But if those in charge aren’t demonstrating the same behavior or using the same setup, then the representatives quickly abandon the new training and equipment. Inconsistencies become the norm. Those variances are a huge issue, because when you’re not reliable or predictable enough, customers don’t trust you as much.

And although customers of course want good technical help, it’s how your team treats them—that is, whether they’re empathetic and respectful—that’s really at the core of the customer-business relationship. Empathy and respect aren’t things you’re going to find laid out in any policies and procedures manual. They’re things your team learns through interaction with you.

You can’t solve poor customer service by throwing a bunch of money at it. You solve it by developing a real moral core that can guide you and then developing that same core in others. It falls back on the old idea that great leaders make new leaders, rather than just seeking people who will follow. If you’re doing it right, then others will not be afraid to take the helm, and you can be confident that they’re going to represent you and satisfy your base just as well as you would yourself.

Great Leadership Will Set You Apart

Especially today, with business being global, subpar customer service won’t get you very far. And with budgets tighter than ever as virtually every industry adjusts to handle and move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s foolish to spend money on an issue if you can solve it with simple, consistent modeling.

Think hard about the implicit and explicit messages you offer your team, and make sure that your own behavioral example drives them to engage with patients in ways that both you and your patients can be proud of.

Dr. Steven Ghim is a cosmetic dentist who also provides general and comprehensive dental care. He has over 20 years of clinical experience. His private practice office is fully digital and ultra-modern, and it serves the adult patient. Dr. Ghim has extensive training in dental veneers and other complex cosmetic dental procedures such as color matching. Those that are looking to receive exquisite, custom-made, and natural-looking veneers and smile transformations come to this office. He can be reached at

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