Most business leaders focus first on making their customers happy in order to become or stay successful. Building a strong relationship with your customer is of course important. In order to keep customers satisfied it is important that you invest in them, build a good relationship and listen to them. That you demonstrate that you understand their challenges and their needs so you can show them how your product or your service can help them best. You will use their feedback to improve your service and become better in what you do. But does that mean that you have to do everything in your power to make the customer happy even if this has a negative impact on your employees?
Some businesses will compromise their own belief system, and in order to make their customers happy their employees are paying the price. What if your path to customer success leads to a toxic work environment where your employees are pushed to their boundaries, are not doing the work they where hired for and are increasingly becoming more and more demotivated? Remember your employees are the interface with your customers and when they are unhappy this will surely impact the customer experience.
Motivated and engaged employees are essential in order to make your customers happy.
Richard Branson, who is known for being a great leader and successful entrepreneur, said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
And I agree with them. In my career I have lead and managed many different teams and people and I have seen first hand how you can get so much more out of your team if you treat them well. Satisfied employees translate into a better customer experience. Treating your employees well doesn’t mean that you need to give in to their every need and desire because that will only result in spoiled employees and that is arguably even worse.
Step 1 : Make your people happy!
In order to make you customers happy start by making your people happy. But how do you make your people happy? There are many ways and I won’t go through each and everyone of them. To get you started, I listed a few below:
Taking the time to listen
Invest time and listen to your people. You can do this in any shape or form. Whether it’s formal or informal people need to be listened to. Although I’m not a great advocate of having recurring meetings with each and everyone, it works for some. Especially when everyone is always busy it might be good to have some time blocked in your calendar.
But also have unexpected chats with people in the office or go for a coffee with them. You often sense when someone needs extra guidance or want to share some idea’s with you.
Giving them a voice
The people on the floor are your eyes and ears. They are often the first to see what works and what doesn’t work. Use this to your advantage. Make sure you regularly ask for their feedback: what is going well and where can we improve? They will be way more invested in the wellbeing of the company if they realise that their opinion counts, and that they can make a difference .
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek
Giving challenging work
You probably went to great lengths to hire people for their knowledge and their skills. Now it is your job to put people in the right place. In order to keep your people happy and engaged you need to keep giving them interesting and challenging work.
Investing in personal development
Help them advance their career. Keep investing in your employees. People are more than they ever realised. It requires great leaders to take the time and help identify and unlock the potential of their people. Stimulate your team to think about what the next step in their career will be, give them reassurance and space to experiment and to grow.
Creating a failure safe environment
We all heard or read before that failure is needed to grow as a person or company. But the question is: how do you deal with failure? How you deal with failure can make or break a healthy work environment and it will impact the satisfaction of your employees. Often failure in the workplace is frowned upon and when things go wrong I often see leaders become verbally aggressive to those who failed. They might even publicly ridicule the person or mark them as incompetent.
And what will this do to the people? You give the message that they need to be perfect and as a result many people become afraid to admit their mistakes, they might even end up hiding them or point fingers to someone else and trust me that is the last thing you want.
Create an environment where people own up to their mistakes, and if needed support them to learn from it so they don’t make the same mistake twice.
“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” – Napoleon Hill
Do happy employees guarantee that customers automatically become happy? The answer to that is of course not! I wish it was that ‘simple’. That would have saved me many difficult escallations with my customers and bosses.
There is more needed to make customers happy and that will make for another great blog post. But for now we can conclude that happy employees are arguably the most important ingredient to make customers happy.
Herb Kelleher the founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines who’s known for his dynamic and very successful leadership style has said it very nicely “If the employees come first, then they’re happy. A motivated employee treats the customer well. The customer is happy so they keep coming back, which pleases the shareholders. It’s not one of the enduring green mysteries of all time, it is just the way it works.”
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In case you want to read more, please read my previous post about How to empower your employees? Empowering your people compared to learning how to ride a bike. There are not many people in this world that can get on a bike and immediately ride it without help.