Most business leaders would agree that a key to a company’s success is an ongoing stream of happy customers, willing to pay for the company’s goods and services. And then getting them to come back… again and again.
The key to achieving customer happiness, as in customers who want to do business with you again and again, is to focus on employee happiness first. That’s according to Jason Whitman, VP of Customer and Employee Success at Justworks, a startup providing simple HR, benefits and payroll for small business.
It’s simple – happier employees make happier customers. And, there are plenty of statistics and facts to back this up.
Gallup reports in “The State of the American Workplace” that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20 percent increase in sales.
QSR reports that Chick-fil-A ranked above all fast-food/quick-serve competitors on both revenue per restaurant and politeness. If you’ve been to a Chick-fil-A restaurant, you would understand why. It’s about their customer service. And, analysts agree that these stellar rankings can be attributed to high-level customer service, which Chick-fil-A credits to investing in its employees.
The Tempkin Group’s 2016 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study reports that companies that excel in customer experience have one-and-a-half times as many engaged employees as customer experience “laggards.”
Whitman shared some insights that will help any company adopt a more employee-focused culture:
- Offer meaningful employee development: Employees want to feel there is opportunity for advancement within the organization they work for. Let them know their options and how they can get there. If they feel they have a solid career path ahead of them, they’ll be more inclined to provide great service to customers, knowing it will also benefit their long-term goals.
- Make training part of the culture: This goes back to employee and career development. Employees want to gain new skills that will make them more successful in their current positions and potentially lead to advancement. Provide ongoing training and coaching that teaches employees new skills, because these skills will ultimately shine through in customer interactions.
- Show employees they are supported: Interaction between leadership and employees is key to building upon the lessons learned in training and coaching sessions. Feedback and praise are critical to employees feeling they are making a difference. Good managers who create a healthy, caring and supportive work environment will help cultivate the business’ future leaders who in turn will manage the overall customer experience.
- Create a fun work environment: Fun doesn’t mean having a party, although some kind of fun or social event can add to employees’ happiness. Even companies with heavy structure can create a positive environment that employees enjoy being a part of. I’ve always preached a FUN work environment, with FUN being an acronym for Fulfillment, Uniqueness and Next. For employees to be fully engaged at work and with your customers, they must feel fulfilled with their employment at your company, feel that their unique talents and interests aid in their success, and be excited about what’s next, which could be the next big product, their next project, or maybe just being excited about coming back to work the next day. Even small gestures to make a workplace more enjoyable can influence the level of service and patience that employees deliver to customers.
- Give rewards and recognition: Beyond creating a fun work environment, it’s important to recognize employees for a job well done. A rewards program where leadership recognizes top employees can foster camaraderie. You can take it a step further by empowering all employees to nominate their colleagues for superstar performance. Rewarding strong employees for great customer service interactions in particular will not only set an example for other employees, but it may also inspire them to go above and beyond in providing excellent service to the customers they engage with.
The concept of focusing on employees isn’t a new one. Yet it is important enough that we must be reminded of it. Whitman’s comments are a good reminder from a different perspective.
All of this make me think of what Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former Chairman of the Board of Southwest Airlines, used to say about this topic. In his words:
“Years ago, business gurus used to apply the business school conundrum to me: ‘Who comes first? Your shareholders, your employees, or your customers?’ I said, ‘Well, that’s easy,’ but my response was heresy at that time. I said employees come first and if employees are treated right, they treat the outside world right, the outside world used the company’s product again, and that makes shareholders happy. That really is the way it works. It’s not a conundrum at all.”
Focus on making employees happy, and in turn, they will make your customers happy. What’s happening on the inside of the organization is felt on the outside by the customers.
The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi.