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35 years of frontline service wisdom

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne Axelsson
June 9, 2021
35 years of frontline service wisdom

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Ever thought about building a career around saving people from bugs, ants, bats and rats? We didn’t think so - but you only have to spend 30 seconds on Edge’s website to know that this company takes a radically different approach to what they do. Their entire front page is dedicated to the ‘9 factors that will determine the quality of your experience with a pest control company’. That’s right - not what they do; but how they do it. And as passionate as Edge is about providing great service - they’re even more passionate about the people delivering it. 

When we caught up with Mitch Smith, Edge’s Chief Operation Officer, he had some heart-warming (and paradigm shifting) nuggets of wisdom to share about what he’s learnt over 35 years of frontline service. 

A lesson is listening

As a young man, Mitch was promoted through the ranks really quickly but remembers ‘hitting a wall’ when one of his territories consistently under-performed. “I think I need to pull the trigger, and end the relationship,” he told the company President. “But he looked me in the eyes and said: did you ever stop to think that you might be the problem?” 

For a young guy who was accelerating in his career and had the numbers to back that up, the rebuke took Mitch down a few notches. How could he be the problem? He had great numbers; and he was doing great things... 

“But he was adamant,” says Mitch “And because of him, I ended up at a seminar focused on leadership and connection with all of my leaders. That’s where I learnt my most valuable lesson: I was losing momentum because I felt like every one of my leaders, every one of my frontline employees, had to do things the same way Mitch Smith did them when he was a technician and service manager. I wanted them to be me and I wasn't listening to anybody.” 

Mitch remembers that moment as the biggest turning point in his career, and the foundation for decades of success afterwards. 

“The ugly truth was that the further away I found myself from the front line, the less impact I was having. It was a tough lesson, but once I’d learnt it, I gradually gained more and more traction.”

Since then, Mitch has evolved his leadership style from radically selfish to selfless and thanks to much of his wisdom, Edge has remained in ‘hyper-growth’ mode despite a global pandemic. 

“It’s really simple - if we can support our frontline teams, they’ll support our customers, and everybody wins.”
Mitch with one of their customers and the founder of Edge, Andrew Richardson. Taken in Portland, Oregon supporting our frontline.

Here are Mitch’s  top tips for supporting your frontline

Make your people your purpose

The best businesses are love-based in their mindset and our motivation. They understand that growing a long-lasting, profitable organization means bringing people into their organization to have fulfilling careers that support their families. 

“If you know that I love and care about you and your family and that I'll do whatever I can do to make work a good experience for you, that carries weight that money can't buy. And that will always translate into incredible customer experience; and even further success. But it has to start with your people - because they are your brand.”
Creating psychological safety is key

Team members will only feel safe when there’s complete transparency within an organization. 

“I want you to feel safe telling me if we have a problem. I don't care if it's an employee problem that's caused by a process that we have, or a lack of a process, or if it's a customer problem. I learnt a long time ago that I'm not the smartest guy in the room and that having your finger on the pulse of the business means listening to the heart of it - and that’s your people.”
Ask for feedback AND act on it!

Organisations who don’t deliberately take the time to ask their people to be real with them are bound to  fall out of touch with what their people and their customers need. 

“If you ask the question, you better have the courage to hear the answer and deal with it appropriately, remembering that sometimes - you're the problem. When I keep quiet and listen, I often hear ‘Mitch, if we do it this way, we'll get what the company needs.’ “  
Stay in the field!

Whether you’re a public company or in the private sector, leaders are found ‘where the fight is’, in the thick of where customer service delivery is taking place.

“I try to stay in the field three days a week with our customer service specialists. We also have a Teams thread where all of our service specialists and employees chat and I actively input on that channel and communicate throughout the day. I’m one of them - I celebrate their successes and share in the learnings.”
Mitch with of their dedicated and amazing team members, Yuvan!  Getting rid of bugs in Chicago.
Empower your people to identify and to fix problems

Leaders challenge their people to put themselves in the customer's situation and give them the freedom to get creative and take action. 

“What would the customer want, appreciate and value if you did it? Sometimes that costs us a little money to fix problems that we don't pass onto the customer. The freedom to take care of a situation, regardless of whether or not it fits into our standard ‘recipe’, is super important.”

Like we said - some incredible nuggets of truth and the best things about them? They’re simple enough to start applying TODAY so that all of us move further away from selfish to selfless in our leadership style. 

Susanne Axelsson

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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