What comes first? The chicken or the egg? The customer or the employee?
What customer service means to an employee and a business owner is a conundrum neither understand. Often the employee wants to come first and the business owner wants to put the customer first.
Look at it from a business owner’s perspective. You might be forgiven for thinking that the sole purpose of being in business is to make money therefore the customer should come first! Of course, making money is one of the key objectives for going into business. After all, business owners take a financial risk and if the business doesn’t make money, the business could go under and they would lose their investment. If the business goes under, naturally employees would lose their jobs and other stakeholders such as the local community and suppliers are also affected.
Again, who comes first? The customer or the employee?
I once overheard an employee saying “I do all the work and the boss gets all the profits!”
Hummm, an interesting perspective. I suspect that employee either didn’t understand what it takes to be in business or didn’t feel valued or appreciated. If the employee didn’t feel appreciated or part of a greater vision, then they weren’t committed to the business. Either way, this employee had an attitude. An attitude not conducive to serving the customer. But, is it the employees fault or managements fault?
If the employee doesn’t feel appreciated, they won’t serve the customer in good faith and the customer won’t be happy. This is the employee’s conundrum.
If the customer is not happy, they will take their business elsewhere. This is the business owner’s conundrum.
To understand how to bridge the gap between what the employees wants, what the customer wants and what the business owner wants, let’s examine the concept of trust.
How important is trust in the buyer seller relationship?
Consider the following scenario from a customer’s perspective.
A friend of mine was running late and needed to pick up his uniform from the dry cleaners. He knew the dry cleaner closed at 5 pm so he made sure he would arrive 15 minutes before closing time. When he got there at exactly 4:45, he found they were already closed!
When he told me the story I can remember thinking, why advertise opening hours if you don’t stick to them!
In this scenario, the question is, “Why did the employee close early? Was it an employee issue or a management issue? Perhaps it was neither, there may have been a crisis or other extenuating circumstances that led to the employee closing the business early. Who knows?
The point is, if there was no valid reason for the employee to close early, then the customer won’t come back.
Trust is very important in a business relationship. If a customer can’t trust your word such as the times you are open, why should they trust the quality of the work you do.
Is 99% okay
Just how good is good enough from an employee’s perspective?
No employee can be expected to deliver 100% all the time. The extenuating circumstances as to why this employee closed early may have been a family emergency, a sick child at home or even a power outage where the business couldn’t operate that day.
From a customer’s perspective, had the employee put a note on the door and explained why they closed early, there is a chance of retaining the customer’s business. A simple note would have helped the customer understand why they were let down on that occasion and not assume that was a regular occurrence.
Here’s another example of how a customer was let down.
A young mother loaded her two children in the car (no mean feat with two children under 4) and drove 30 minutes to a children’s climbing gym. She arrived, parked the car, unloaded the children and dressed them in their snow clothes because it snowed that day, and went inside. Reception greeted them with “Are you here for open gym?” to which she replied, yes.
“Sorry, there is no open gym today, we only have camp.”
The young mother responded. “It said it was open gym today on your website!”
“Yes, the website was wrong, it’s now been changed.”
In this very real example, imagine how let down the mother felt. Obviously, the effort she made that day was more than just a 30-minute drive to the gym. It was also getting the children ready in the first place. Additionally, she had a 30-minute drive home with disappointed children, getting them dressed and undressed for cold weather along with getting them in and out of the car. She relied on the information on the website being correct. Her trust was broken.
No employee can be expected to get it right 100% of the time however, in this scenario, the bigger question is, was it an employee issue or a management issue?
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Were the employees feeling under-valued and didn’t care so didn’t do their job properly?
- Was it a poor employment decision hiring employees with a poor attitude?
- Were the employees adequately trained in how to change information on the website?
- Were sufficient systems and processes around updating the website on a regular basis?
- Was there a glitch in technology?
- Were their enough employees to manage both the gym and the updating of the website?
The failure to update the website could have been due to any of these causes or something else again. The point is, something went wrong and how do you fix it?
How simple is it in this day and age with smart phones, to ensure information is correct on your website or Facebook page? Correct information will earn you customer loyalty because they know they can rely on you keeping your word (that trust word again).
Once you break the trust of the customer it’s very difficult to get it back again.
In this case, the young mother was offered an apology and given two free passes for the gym. The bigger question is, will that young mother go back or will the business owner need to spend approximately 5-6 times the cost to attract a new customer all because of misinformation on a website?
Who comes first? The customer or the employee?
Going back to the employee making the statement, “I do all the work and the boss gets all the money.” This statement suggests to me that the employee did not have a sense of belonging, nor did they feel valued or appreciated and nor did they understand the vision (if there was one) of the organization they worked for.
If you look at business as a virtuous circle, if the employee is satisfied, the customer is satisfied then the owner is satisfied and the employee is satisfied….. and so on. The circle turns continuously with no end and no beginning.
If employees are satisfied, they will look after customers as if it were their own business striving for high levels of customer satisfaction. If the customer is satisfied, they will return generating repeat business and will most likely recommend the business to others. If this is the case, the business owner does not have to spend excessive money on attracting new customers therefore sales and profits increase making the business owner happy. In turn, the more the business owner invests in employees leads to more satisfied and motivated employees.
With a motivated and dedicated workforce, employees are committed to delivering exceptional customer service which in turn delivers a greater return on investment for the business owner. You get the picture. If this virtuous circle is broken for any reason, employee performance will suffer, customer service levels will suffer and sales and profits will be affected accordingly.
Richard Branson says it best.
Customers do not come first. Employees come first. If you look after your employees, they will look after your customers.
Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. They are also the secret to landing and retaining customers.
Hire on attitude – fire on attitude
For the virtuous circle to work, employers must do two things; hire great people and then invest in them.
All too often the hiring process focuses on the wrong aspects of a resume. Qualifications and experience. Instead of only looking at what’s on paper, try reading between the lines. What is the resume NOT saying about the person?
An employee with a great attitude is far more valuable than an employee with great qualifications. Skills can be taught with the right training. Knowledge can be obtained with training and experience. Attitude and culture fit is much more important. Its easier to hire the right person in the first instance than enter into a performance management process and fire them later.
If you hire the right person, AND you treat them well, they will not only remain loyal to you and your business, they will look after your customers exceptionally well.
Equally, as a business leader, if you hire the wrong people or they don’t respond to you as leader, good people will leave and the poor ones will stay.
Consider why customers leave.
|5%||Take business to friends.|
|9%||Have competitive reasons.|
|14%||Are dissatisfied with the product or service.|
|68%||Get turned off by the indifferent attitude of an employee.|
A whopping 68% get turned off by the attitude of an employee. This is a very compelling reason to take care of your employees first.
If you don’t look after your employees, they won’t look after you customers.
On a final note
When you look after your employees and make them feel valued, they in turn will look after your customers and make them feel valued.
In a nutshell
- Trust is vitally important in the customer employee relationship.
- No employee can be expected to perform 100% of the time.
- Employee, customer and business owner relationships are a virtuous circle.
- Look after your employees, they will look after the customer who int urn returns a profit for the business owner.
- Customers do not come first. Employees come first. If you look after your employees, they will look after your customers.
- Your employees are the lifeblood of your business. They are also the secret to landing and retaining customers.
- Hire on attitude and fire on attitude.