Is Employee Morale a Result of Your Customer Service Culture?

Which came first, the happy customer or the happy employee?

Chicken or the egg?

Recently, a returning client asked if I would deliver a one-hour presentation for his trade association. With further discussion, I learned that his group wanted its hired speaker to show attendees: “How to Motivate Employees During These Tough Economic Times.”

This got me thinking about the not-so-obvious parallels that exist between employees and customers …

Simply put, employees are people, too. The smartest companies know employees are the lifeblood of their organizations. They know it and they build their culture around it. Your people help to make up your company; your brand. They’re the ones who deliver the customer experience.

“Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work.” -Martin Oliver

 

The customer experience will never exceed the employee experience

Some 20 years ago I worked for a global restaurant chain. That experience got me more interested in hospitality and customer service. That employer operated on a principle that has stayed with me ever since: The guest experience will never exceed the employee experience. Every day I see evidence of the fundamental truth in that statement. Sure, a great employee might be able to deliver a great customer experience in spite of a less-that-ideal work culture. However, that situation is likely only sustainable for the short term. A poor employee experience can only wear on a worker’s attitude and negatively affect customer interactions. That employee will probably leave the organization before too long.

It should come as no surprise

So I set about to research employee satisfaction. I was looking for proof that “dollar” compensation is not one of the top factors in employee loyalty. Along the way I discovered an interesting correlation.

As it turns out, some of the best places to work are also known as industry leaders in customer service.

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work ForIn the top 20 of Fortune magazine’s annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list, for example, you’ll find such firms as Google, Wegman’s Food Markets, Zappos.com and USAA.

That’s an interesting mix, isn’t it? A search engine, a brick-and-mortar grocery retailer, an online retailer and a call center serving insurance and financial needs.

Bottom line

Some might say poor customer service is a vicious circle: customers are angered by it, so they take it out on the employees. Others would blame hostile, demanding clients who cause frazzled employees to behave badly.

Consider this: Giving employees an opportunity to engineer a positive customer experience by way of autonomy, mastery and purpose might just be the magic pill you’ve been looking for.

I accepted that offer to teach a group of executives how to motivate employees and – between you and me – what I discovered along the way was this:

  1. Our intrinsic motivators at work don’t suddenly change with a changing economy
  2. We’re much more alike than we are different
  3. The customer experience is in direct correlation to the employee experience:

Happy employees make happy customers who make happy employees who make happy customers who are more likely to become raving fans who generate 80 to 90 percent of your referral business. But here’s the part that may surprise you, mainly because no one is talking about it or connecting the dots:

Employees who are given the permission, the training, the ownership and a consistent opportunity to make customers happy are less likely to leave your company. In other words, a culture of great customer service magically produces employee loyalty. Go figure.

Here’s a quick video segment of Richard Owen, CEO of SATMETRIX, addressing “The chicken and the egg” >>

Click Image to Skip to quick video segment

Have you ever been the loyal employee of a company whose unyielding mission was to deliver a remarkable customer experience? I’d love to hear your stories…

Comments

  1. Steve…right on target! The key is to allow employee ownership. When I design a fitness program for my client’s employees , I allow them to be part of the design. I ask folks to choose activities that they love to do, to be the core of the program. When you have happy clients designing programs that allow them to experience success, it leads to a happy healthy outcome. And…..once my clients are happy and healthy, productivity and efficiency sky rockets. This leads to raving fans and clients that talk to other potential clients. I love it! Great job, Rick.

  2. Thanks, Rick. Your work certainly exemplifies this important correlation.

  3. Great post Steve. A lot of this thinking seems to have caught on in the restaurant biz, but it’s missing from many IT companies. I bet there’s a lot of money in teaching these ideas to IT companies. They still operate on the maxim that money is the only motivator and that if you just reward people with enough money that they’ll work 80 hour weeks and do anything for the company. The fact of the matter is that once a household gets above 75K per year, happiness levels off. So, money does bring happiness, it’s been proven, but only to a point. The ideas in your post could be mighty powerful if put in the right hands at companies suffering from a “it’s all about money” type of mindset.

  4. You have to wonder, Benjamin, if the decision makers of said companies *believe* that THEY are motivated by money and therefore believe that everyone else must be also. I don’t think many of us know ourselves as well as we think we do.

Trackbacks

  1. […] you must be doing your part in having your *front-line staff* feel smart, important and valued. The customer or client experience will never exceed the employee experience … at least not for […]

  2. […] and you cannot expect disengaged employees to create engaged customers. The customer experience is directly related to the employee […]

  3. […] who are given the permission, the training, the ownership and a consistent opportunity to make customers happy are less likely to leave your company. In other words, a culture of great customer service […]

  4. […] Happy employees make happy customers … who make happy employees who make happy customers who are more likely to become the raving fans who generate 80 to 90 percent of your referral business. […]

  5. […] customer experience is in direct correlation to the employee experience… Survey your staff and ask, “On a scale from 0 to 10, overall, […]

  6. […] successful customer experience program aligns itself with employee needs to harness people potential to its […]

  7. […] customer experience is in direct correlation to the employee […]

  8. […] to what, specifically, they attribute their loyalty? After all, the customer experience is in direct correlation to the employee […]

  9. […] a culture dedicated to delivering great customer service! It turned out that people who work in a friendly environment that is tolerant of mistakes, and who are empowered to make decisions about how they do their jobs, […]

  10. […] Happy employees are more likely to generate happy customers, who — by the way — tend to generate happy employees. And so it goes. […]

  11. […] “Our mission statement about treating people with respect and dignity is not just words but a creed we live by every day. You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed…” […]

  12. […] Care for your employees, and they’ll care for your customers. […]

  13. […] great employees you can never have great customer […]

  14. […] Imagine if everyone on your team had the goal of being “Day-makers” for your customers. Imagine if your staff regularly brainstormed on how to be a hero to those doing business with you. Now imagine how much loyalty that type of behavior and subsequent culture could create amongst customers … and employees alike. […]

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