“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” – Anne M. Mulcahy
A great quote from an outstanding leader. If external customers are the reason companies are in business, employees are the first customers who help run the business. If a company is looking to enhance its happy customer base and improve the relationships with the existing customers, they should look no further than first getting better at customer service. Customer service happens through the employees. Irrespective of the quality of your products and the reputation of your brand, if customer service is poor, you can be sure that customers won’t last. We speak here about service to both internal and external customers. Employees are the first customers and companies that look after them well, will be able to create memorable and happy experiences for their external customers.
Employees are the first customers and also the face of any company. What the external customer’s receive will have a direct co-relation between the skills, attitude, aptitude and general demeanour of the employees and if they are treated well the external customers will receive the highest level of customer service. Customer service is a never-ending process that requires constant care and improvement. If your relationship with your employees is great, your business will flourish and if not then customers will see a drop in service and will begin to complain and eventually leave. Don’t let this happen to you – employees are the first customers – treat them well.
Treating employees well is not just about dishing out salaries and increments. Employees are the first customers, and just as you expect that your external customers will be treated, they expect to be treated similarly. Care, attention, trust, respect, integrity and empathy – extend these niceties to your employees first, if you expect them to extend the same to your external customers. Happy employees will be eager helpers – sorting out customer problems with agility, demonstrating care and empathy, working in tandem and cooperation with their fellow-workers and showing great respect for the company, its leadership and products. It would be unwise to expect disgruntled and unhappy employees to serve your customers with high levels of customer service. If you are not consistently recognizing hard-work or top performances, the morale of the employees will drop steadily and soon you will be faced with one of the toughest problems in any industry – employee attrition. It takes a lot of time and effort to recruit, train and get new employees to start performing at their optimum, which means losing out on precious time and also a noticeable drop in customer service levels.
What does your company do to show respect to employees and also to demonstrate that you understand that employees are the first customers? Start now if you have not understood this yet – we have some thoughts on the subject.
- Just like periodic feedback is taken from and conversations are conducted with external customers, practice the same with your employees. Speak with them; ask them why they continue to work with your company, what they like about working with you, what bothers them and what they want to see more of. Conduct formal and informal feedback sessions allowing them to vent their frustrations and irritations with anything that is creating these feelings. Let the feedback be anonymous if they so desire. Employees can be extremely vocal and so be prepared to receive a number of suggestions and maybe some feedback that you never expected to receive. Put together a team of employees – ensure representation from all departments and all levels. Let this core team look at the suggestions and work on finding and implementing solutions. Monitor the changes and then check back with employees on what they feel about the changes based on their feedback. Even though implementing all the suggestions may not be possible, a sincere effort to enhance the work life quality is easily discernible. Remember however, that just like external customer engagement never stops, employees are the first customers, and hence they too need to be consistently engaged.
- Give your ‘first customers’ many reasons to care and feel good about working with your company. When your employees feel valued, they will help your business to succeed by valuing the external customers and treating them well. Making your employees feel loved and valued is a standard. However how your company does it could vary from the next company – see what works best for you. Whatever methods you employ, ensure that your employees can truly believe that they are vital to your business and your success will mean success for them too both personally and professionally. A number of companies follow this religiously and are amongst the most famous and successful companies in the world.
- When trying to build connections with external customers, what your brand and company does is reach out, listen attentively and learn from what the external customers say. This leads to profitable and loyal customers over time. Wouldn’t this same logic apply to employees who are your primary customers? When they feel one with your brand and company their demeanour will exhibit this feeling and when external customers perceive passion and loyalty from the inside, it helps them to trust your company even more. Happy customers are repeat customers, coming back not just with more business but also will bring their friends and associates with them. A successful and profitable company draws all the ‘right’ attention – investors, shareholders and even some of the best talent in the market. It becomes a highly lucrative cycle of profits and sustained growth.
- Build and sustain a company culture of collaboration and customer focus. This is easier said than done if your employees are contributing towards this culture. Involve your staff in key decisions, let them know about what is happening with the company, conduct team and all-employee meetings wherein senior leadership must reach out to the employees and spend quality time with them. Make these sessions interactive and rewarding enough for your employees to actually want to attend them. I know of a company where such sessions were about the ‘big guy’ just rattling off some figures and making an elaborate speech. There would be some snacks served, again to the liking of ‘the guy’, after which the meeting would end. There was really no meaning of these sessions for the employees. With time, employees learned to take the day off on the day that they were to be part of the session. Only when attendance dropped, did someone from Human Resources bother to find out why. Drawing employees close to your company and brand is a factor of listening to them first, just like you would your external customers. You recruited these employees for some skills and aptitude and so it is unfair to treat them as numb-skulls by continually talking at them rather than listening to and learning from them too.
Employees are the first customers – empower them with training, listen to their views and suggestions, provide a congenial and safe working environment, follow an open-door policy that allows them to speak their mind without fear of retribution and invest heavily in showing them that they are indeed your most prized resources and that you are glad they are on ‘your team’.