A friend recently pointed out that companies manage their staff with fear or with love. I have experienced both love and fear from management and both have had direct impact on my ability to deliver the product, my delivery of customer service and the way my colleagues and customers respond to me and to the product. Love or fear….it is so simple.

As Sheryl Sandberg said in her new book, ‘Lean in – women, work and the will to lead’, fear provides so many barriers to being who we really are, our performance and ultimately our success – “Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure.” Companies that foster this fear from the higher echelons of management, cannot expect their staff to deliver a product without fear dictating their choices, their manner, their commitment to their customers, their loyalty to the company and their genuine love for the job and the organisation. Fear does not allow us to be authentic and in customer service, authenticity is supreme.

Customers are not blind…they can smell this fear. So how does it affect their purchase and enjoyment of the product? They either have pity, and respond humbly with a feeling that it is their social responsibility to support the staff members, or, as the majority would, they choose the simple option – they just walk away. Who wants to be a part of an environment where they, the customer, start looking over their shoulder and keep themselves braced for the next deluge of negativity? It is too stressful and frankly, the paying customer, who is the most powerful partner is the business world, thus chooses to spend their money where they feel it deserves to go. Without the customer, there would be no company – there would be no wages, and the staff would have no means to pay their mortgages and clothe and feed their families.

So why, as management, would you choose to run your business with fear? Your own fear of not being liked? Fear of making the wrong choice? Fear of drawing negative attention? Fear of overreaching? Fear of being judged? Fear of failure? Personal and professional insecurity? All of the above!

So, what about love? As fear breeds fear, so love breeds love. Staff members who feel appreciated, supported, celebrated…loved, can only pass this on to their customers. Their customer service is delivered with authenticity, passion and positivity. And how does the customer experience differ? The customer knows they are appreciated, supported and celebrated…they feel loved!

And, if we look at the two reasons for being in business – firstly getting the customer and secondly keeping the customer – a customer who feels loved is more likely to return. So, for a company to focus on customer service that engenders love, management needs to remove the elements of fear from the structure of functionality. Simple!

When the staff are fearful, their customer service delivery reflects their tensions and concerns. When the staff feel loved, the customer receives service that has its foundations in loyalty. Their overall experience is enhanced and they choose to spend their money more freely in this type of environment. And why then, would they not return?