My wife loves that new TV series, Undercover Boss, because she thinks it is high time that CEOs and company managers got out from behind their desks to see how things are really working on the front lines.  I couldn’t agree more. But honestly, isn’t this something that every CEO should be doing every year? Surely, they could learn a thing or two about their employees, and more importantly, how to better serve their customers.

Take my recent visit to the Boca Resort Hotel. When my wife asked whether there was a ladies’ room on the floor that we were on, the hotel worker’s response was, “Of course there is.” Not the kind of answer you’d expect from a hotel that thinks it’s as good as a Ritz Carlton now is it?

What would the CEOs of other companies discover if they spent a day or two on the front lines? Well, the CEO of Home Depot might be surprised to see how difficult it is to find an associate to help them in the plumbing department without searching aisles away in electrical or lumber. So I say, let the CEO of Hess find out how many gas stations don’t refill the receipt paper at the pumps and require customers to walk inside to retrieve it. Good way to sell an extra coke and a bag of chips though, don’t you think? Let the CEO of Sports Authority try to buy a pair of athletic shoes and discover that there’s little customer service, nothing in his size, and no suggestion to find it at another store, or ship it to his home. Let the CEO of Office Depot find out how there’s nobody in Business Machines who knows anything about the products they’re selling. Let the CEO of Bank of America stand in line with 6 customers in front of him or her because there’s only one teller window open, yet there are 3 bank officers sitting at their desks with no customers.

In fact, let the CEO of virtually every large corporation in America call into customer service and be taken from one automated operator to another, pushing button after button, and still wait forever to get a “live” person on the other end.

In other words, just be a customer for a day, or a week, and see what your employees are doing right and wrong. Find out what’s working for your customers and what’s not. And for heaven sake, start putting the customer first!

By Stuart Dornfield