At times I am taken to task when I stress an “Employees First” approach to business. One individual even made the following comment in response to one of my articles. “First … second!?!?! Sounds like a win/lose scenario in the making! What is wrong with making them all FIRST?” That reader is exactly right!
I talk about The Employees-First Approach in my book, The Formula for Business Success = B + C + S, and discuss how while the employees may be 1A, customers may be 1B:
“If employees are 1A then customers are 1B. Similarly investors may be 1C, the community may be 1D, the media may be 1E, and so on. My point is that every group of stakeholders of the business is important. Once we start thinking that we need to rank groups in order of importance we begin deteriorating our brand in one way, shape, or form. It’s almost like a two-faced approach that reminds me of the old British sitcom Fawlty Towers where the owner of the hotel, Basil Fawlty — played fabulously by John Cleese, would treat the employees and most guests like ‘rubbish’ but embarrassingly fawn all over customers he thought were part of an elite class.”
My argument is simply while everyone is important, the tone of a proper brand experience almost always begins internally with the culture.
Here are some of the primary ways successful companies can set that tone and concentrate on their employees so they in turn can focus on the customer:
- Continually and constantly reinforce the company philosophy. Through the mission statement, vision statement, values, service standards, and consistent communication of each of these four organization drivers make sure the importance of customer service, and the manner in which it is done, is clear to every employee from day one.
- Ensure that staff has the proper training. Product training, job training, educational opportunities, whatever you want to call it make sure staff has it. The more knowledgeable your employees, the better they will be at their job.
- Provide incentives for a job well done. Management needs to encourage and reinforce the proper behavior. This doesn’t always have to be done through monetary incentives. Many companies have developed programs where employees earn points that can be redeemed for merchandise or gift certificates. In some cases this provides an even greater incentive as employees get the opportunity to earn prizes they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. Remember also that sometimes the best incentive is simply the recognition and appreciation from management for a job well done.
- Create a feeling of ownership among staff. This doesn’t necessarily mean actual ownership in the form of equity. It does mean that the employee takes pride in his or her job and is allowed to make decisions like a mini-CEO within the boundaries set forth by the institution. This also means the encouragement by management for staff to share ideas.
As I have written before, I believe that one of the casualties of the economy over the past five to ten years is employee engagement. Embracing the simple concept of happy employees = happy customers will go a long way in reviving it.