Do you treat your employees as well as you treat your customers?
Customer focus is drilled into every conversation we have and article we read about how to grow a business, how to maximise profit, how to increase customer loyalty. The conversations revolve around topics like the customer experience, their expectations, tactics to boost sales and keep them happy, how to reach them better. There is an excessive amount of content on the topic.
Now compare this with the number of articles in business and entrepreneurial magazines and blogs that speak about keeping employees happy, improving their experience, reaching them and understanding them better, improving their loyalty. Not so many, right? So, what about employee focus?
An author that understands this well and someone I quote regularly, Simon Sinek, has also tried to help leaders understand that a large portion of their success lies in the environment they create for their teams. In a business context, he speaks about the creation of a culture where all people are treated equally, not only the top achievers and performers. When the circles of safety only protect the employees bringing in the biggest customers or the highest sales, the rest are left to fend for themselves. They see the workplace as an environment where their future in the company is based on how well they can protect themselves and deal with the politics or how they are treated. How do companies thrive when employees are in survival mode all day long?
Businesses I have worked with often wonder why things aren’t getting better for them. For those in sales and service environments, you often see them coming down on the sales and service representatives first, the employees who face the customers on a daily basis. Myself and my business partner have been called in on numerous occasions to try drive the adoption of sales tools, to configure and change existing solutions so that tasks and activities become mandatory. It is painful to watch a tool meant to support an employee become a tool to drive their behaviour. In some cases, the tool is then used to monitor and later whip them. Another problem we often encounter is when we are asked to fix these problems and the only point of view we have been given is that of C-level execs or directors. While they usually have the correct vision and strategy, they often have no idea what the employees on the ground are dealing with. The disconnect is clear and we get caught in the middle understanding why top-level management wants things done in a certain way but also why the employees struggle sometimes. The worst case I have experienced was a mandate given to an entire department to cut costs or have 50% of the team fired.
Would this company ever tell their customers they should pay more to increase profits or 50% of them would be fired? I doubt it.
How are these employees meant to feel safe? When your brain is in survival mode – trying to keep your job, meet excessively high sales targets or strict service SLA’s – you will not free up mental capacity to be think creatively and operate with customer satisfaction in mind. All you worry about is deadlines, targets and keeping your job. So, the organisation will verbalise customer focus, but operationally the focus is on survival.
When employees are treated well – not paid well, this is not about money – they will feel safe and will deliver the best they can for the business’ customers. When employees are happy and proud of their jobs, this will have a knock-on effect on the customer’s experience. And magically customer expectations are met, their experience is improved, the customer becomes your brand ambassador and profits ultimately increase.
How are you treating your employees?