Treating Employees Like Customers

When I’m brainstorming the next blog topic that I want to write about, the topic of employee retention is one that frequently comes to mind (as evidenced by some of my other posts). While some may interpret this as me recycling the same topic over and over because I’ve run out of ideas (there may be some truth to this), I am frequently seeing new angles on this topic as I interact with clients and see what works and doesn’t work in their companies.

The new angle (well, new to me at least) of this discussion that I’ve been thinking about lately is this: What if businesses sought to treat their employees the way they strive to treat their customers? This idea may seem like a radical thought to a lot of people, so I can understand meeting it with some skepticism. If the customer is always right, then does that mean that you need to let your employees call all the shots from now on? First off, the customer is not always right. Some customers out there make unreasonable demands, aren’t satisfied when you meet those demands, and don’t pay their bills (not our clients, of course, they’re the best). Likewise, you may come across some employees who don’t hold up their end of the bargain no matter how much incentive and how many second chances you provide. In those cases, bad employees and bad customers both probably need to be let go.

Aside from those bad apples, employees are more likely to be invested in the work they do and perform at a high level if their company makes them feel like they are a priority. How does a company do that? There probably isn’t a single answer that will cover all employees and their unique values and motivations, but investing in their development and listening to their feedback are good places to start. Find out what’s important to them and what they want their career path to look like (hint: employee evaluations are a great time to discuss these things). If their goals are in alignment with the company’s, give them the resources they need to make those plans happen. Exit interviews with employees who are leaving the company is another great opportunity to gather employee feedback. It may be too late to win back those employees, but taking their feedback to heart may benefit your workforce going forward.

It’s often said that the cheapest customer to acquire is the one you already have, and the same is true with employees. When turnover is high, employees are less invested in the company’s goals, which can lead to poor performance (and customer service), which leads to more turnover, rinse and repeat. Will improved employee satisfaction automatically improve customer satisfaction? Maybe not, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

About the Author

+Tim Peters is a consultant with Morrison, providing business valuations, business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, strategic planning), feasibility studies, interim controller services, recruitment, and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Tim directly at tpeters@morrisonco.net or via telephone at 530-893-4764 ext. 208.

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