The Customer Comes Second: Why Prioritizing Your Employees Leads to Better Customer Service

When we think about businesses and their priorities, the customer often comes to mind as the top priority; we talk about being customer obsessed. However, successful companies that are customer obsessed put their employees first, with the belief that happy employees lead to happy customers.

Want happy customers? Focus on happy employees.

The idea of putting employees first is not new, and companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines have advocated it. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, has a company culture that prioritizes employee happiness and has even gone as far as to offer new employees $2,000 to quit if they don’t feel like they fit in with the company culture. Similarly, Southwest Airlines puts its employees first with its “Warrior Spirit” culture, which emphasizes teamwork, fun, and a can-do attitude.

One of the main reasons why prioritizing employees can lead to better customer service is that happy employees are more engaged and motivated to provide excellent service. When employees feel valued and supported, they are likelier to go above and beyond for customers. For example, a study by Harvard Business Review found that happy employees lead to higher customer satisfaction, higher sales, and higher profits.

In contrast, companies that prioritize the customer over the employee often create a negative work environment, leading to higher turnover rates and lower job satisfaction. This can ultimately impact the customer experience as well, as unhappy employees may not provide the same level of service as those who are happy and engaged. An important point to make here is that organizations are really fighting against employee indifference; meaning employees who simply show up to tick off boxes.

Another benefit of prioritizing employees is that it can lead to a positive company culture, which in turn can attract top talent and loyal customers. When a company has a strong culture that values its employees, it can become a desirable place to work and do business with. This is demonstrated by companies like Google and Apple, which are known for their innovative and supportive company cultures.

So, how can companies prioritize employees and create a culture that leads to better customer service? Here are a few action steps:

  1. Listen to and address employee concerns. Take the time to listen to employee feedback and address any concerns they may have. This can help build trust and show employees that their opinions matter.
  2. Empower employees to decide and act. Accountability is a big word, but one that is a verb in organizations that put employees first. Empowered employees will go above and beyond for the customer, and you can hold them accountable for that.
  3. Provide opportunities for growth and development. Offer training and development programs to help employees grow and advance in their careers. This can lead to higher job satisfaction and motivation.
  4. Recognize and reward employees. Recognize and reward employees for their hard work and contributions. This can be as simple as a thank-you note or as elaborate as an employee recognition program.
  5. Emphasize teamwork and collaboration. Encourage teamwork and collaboration among employees. This can help build a positive work environment and foster a sense of community.

It sounds simple, but it isn’t. A company that creates a culture that puts the employee first also puts the customer first.

Bottom line: Happy employees make happy customers. While the customer is undoubtedly important, prioritizing employees can lead to better customer service and ultimately, a more successful business. Simply put: A happier workforce is clearly associated with companies’ ability to deliver better customer satisfaction.

By creating a positive company culture and valuing employees, companies can attract top talent, foster employee engagement, and provide exceptional customer service.