Does Your Company Culture Lead to Happy Customers?
There is a direct correlation between customer happiness and employee happiness.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Treat people in your organization better than you want them to treat your customers. This startlingly simple statement can mean the difference between success and failure of any initiative you take to improve the customer experience and become customer-centric. The link between employee experience and customer experience is obvious: if the employee experience is generally poor, employees won't care much about the customers — or the company. Conversely, IBM found that if the employee experience is positive, and people feel valued and happy, they will care much more about the customer experience and be proud to work for the company.
The two concepts closely mirror one another: just as the customer experience is the sum of every interaction customers have with the organization throughout the customer journey, the employee experience is the sum of every interaction employees have from recruitment through to the end of their time with the organization. And since every interaction a customer has with the organization is thought of, created, designed, built, tested, and managed by the people who work for you, their experience as employees will directly and significantly impact the customer experience. This is true both at the individual level — one happy employee can make a personal impact on specific customer touchpoints — but also on a collective level, as a generally positive employee experience will result in lower turnover, higher engagement, better productivity, and a more customer-centric culture overall.
The employee experience includes the physical environment, technological tools, and culture of the organization. If employees are physically safe and comfortable, have the tools to do their job effectively, and are treated well, they will have a more positive employee experience. Of course, the concept of being "treated well" is subjective, so improving the employee experience means not only adopting an employee-centric mindset, but also treating employees as individuals, each with their own unique circumstances, goals, and needs.
Treat employees as you want customers to be treated
If improving the customer experience is a corporate priority, then leaders at all levels have a responsibility to create an experience for employees that mirrors what is expected for customers. Here are a few items that will have a real impact on the employee experience:
Begin with the company culture
Company culture is a necessary foundation for creating a positive employee experience. If the organization's culture is one where employees embrace behaviors such as trust, collaboration, communication, respect, transparency, and inclusion, they will, in turn, treat your customers in the same manner as they treat their colleagues.
Don't forget the physical environment
Another foundational piece of the employee experience is the physical environment and the tools available to perform their job. If people feel unsafe at work, are crammed together in a tiny space, or are otherwise uncomfortable, they will not have a good experience working with you. Similarly, it is important to remove barriers to doing exceptional work by ensuring you have the technology and processes in place to help people work effectively, collaborate with others, and come up with innovative ideas that best support your customer.
Train your leaders
In order to have an employee-centric workplace, all your leaders need the skills to treat people fairly, equitably, and most importantly, kindly. They must be trained to coach, listen effectively, and answer difficult questions with transparency and empathy.
Treat your employees as individuals
Treating employees fairly means treating them as individuals. If you need to impose a restriction due to an individual's behavior, deal with that on the individual level. Similarly, empowering employees based on track record, role and experience shows them that their contributions are seen and valued and that you believe in their ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of your customers.
Consider the Whole Person
People are so much more than just employees. They have a job, but they also have families, hobbies, dreams, goals, needs, personal emergencies, and health issues. The more you can help them fit their job into their life, the more you demonstrate that you value them as human beings. Not only will this make your employees feel valued, but it will also come back to you in spades if you ever need to ask the team to go above and beyond in exceptional circumstances.
The bottom line
To be customer-centric you must first be employee-centric. When employees feel cared for, respected, supported, and happy with the way they are treated at work, it is much easier for them to treat their customers in the same way. In fact, they will become your biggest brand advocates, and you will begin to develop a competitive advantage that contributes to a competitive employee and customer experience.