The Customer is King. Or is He?

Whether it is in a market, mall, or a customer service class, you must have come across this age-old expression: Customer is King.

This is a corporate cliche meaning that customers determine a business’s direction. The business is compelled to sell products and services that customers want/need, at a price they are willing to pay and provide an acceptable level of service, without which customers will look elsewhere and will not make money.

With the advancement of the internet where the world is now a global village, customer satisfaction is critical for the survival of any business. As the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos puts it: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000”

However, contrary to what many people believe, this does not mean that individual customers are always right, or that the business must bend to the whims of individual customers. It is the aggregate needs of all customers or would-be customers that must be fulfilled.

Most companies pay attention to their external customers while neglecting their internal customers: the employees. The employees are at the forefront of every business and they represent that business in the eyes of the external customers.

One could hear statements like; that company is very bad; it has good products but I had a bad experience with them. This could be just from an encounter with one or two employees from the said company.

This article debunks the cliché which states that “Customer is King”. The writer’s opinion is that “Employee is King”.

Your employees in most instances are the point of contact between your company and your clients. How employees treat customers will determine whether the customer will return or not, despite the company’s products/services. This is true in a case where the client can get the same product/service from other providers. For companies to stay competitive, they must ensure that employees are well taken care of.

As Richard Branson puts it: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients”.

How then does one take care of employees you might wonder. Find some strategies below that will enable you to keep employees happy in effect ensuring your clients are being taken care of

Ask for employee input

This can be achieved through anonymous polls. Getting employee input shows you care about their opinion and you are making efforts to ensure that their working condition is good.

Once you get opinions and suggestions from employees, you have to always take action. This will show that you are loyal to them the same way you expect them to be loyal to you.

Offer personal development programmes

This could mean sending them to workshops and seminars or tuition reimbursement for courses completed. This strategy also eases promotion from within the company.

Appreciate good work

You can inspire your employees by validating their good work. This can be in a form of compliments, awards, public appreciation, or a handwritten thank you note.

Celebrate milestones big and small

Keep your employee motivated in their day-to-day tasks by setting and celebrating small milestones.

Celebrating milestones is also about understanding the challenges your people are facing. When a mini-milestone isn’t met, take the opportunity to see what’s blocking your team’s progress, how it can be overcome, and whether the end-goal needs to be re-assessed.  

Set SMART goals

Smaller, measurable goals are a valuable way to stay motivated during work on a project. Whether your team has a system to keep track of completed work or you develop a tracking system of your own, helping your team to set goals that are reasonable and achievable can keep employees motivated and encouraged when they hit notable milestones.

SMART stands for:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable

R: Realistic

T: Time frame

Create meaningful mentorship programmes

New and less experienced employees should be paired with more experience employees within a department. This will enable the less experienced employees to get guidance along their career journey and an understanding of the trials and successes they will encounter.

Share profit

Profit-sharing gives employees a sense of pride in what they have accomplished and a feeling of accomplishment seeing their earnings increase. It can improve performance and reduce employee turnover as well.

Offer an incentive/benefit programme

Employees generally expect standard benefits like paid time off, health insurance, and even flexibility. You can motivate employees by taking your benefits to the next level. Add game rooms to help employees de-stress throughout the day, a snack bar to keep energy levels up, or even implement one mental health day each month. Providing childcare or remote work flexibility are other great ways to incentivize employees. These kinds of benefits boost health, increase team motivation and encourage people to stay with your company longer.

Provide meaningful feedback

Praise is always welcome, but becomes far more meaningful when it is linked to concrete examples. “Great presentation, well done,” is nice feedback to receive, but “Great presentation, your explanation of how this impacts our customer base will help us improve customer loyalty,” pinpoints exactly how someone’s contribution benefits the company. Giving specific, targeted feedback tells your team that you’re paying attention. 

By Quinta Khan