Did you know that the saying, the customer is always right, was coined way back in 1909? I hope we’ve learned a few things since then. Business titans like Virgin’s Richard Branson recognize that customers fare best when businesses recognize employees as their most valuable assets. Putting your employees at the top of your priority list places customers there, too.
Valued employees pass that value on to customers
Regardless of the type of business that you run, valued employees are engaged and brimming with company spirit. And, employees who love their jobs tend to pass their knowledge and spirit on to customers.
If you’ve ever shopped at a high-end clothing store like Nordstrom, you know what I’m talking about. Their sales staff will go the extra mile to help you find everything that you want, while trying to protect you from buying the barrel-tied-in-the-middle outfit that you love so much.
When you recognize employee value, your team wants to meet and even exceed your customer service expectations. They continuously hone their knowledge of your products or services, and they enthusiastically share their skills with customers.
Customers recognize the importance of your employees
Regardless of whether your business sells products or services, customers spend more time with your employees than they spend with you. They may never meet you personally, and they don’t care, as long as they get the support that they need.
Your employees can make or break the customer experience. As such, customers equate them with the company that they represent. In the eyes of your stockholders or investors, you may be the big cheese. But, the knowledge and spirit that your team displays every day helps ensure that the business does not curdle.
See your employees as customers see them, and you recognize their importance to the business and your customers. It is their advice and support that helps your customers to be right, too.
Employees can make your products and services better
You may know every fact and figure about your business, but your employees have a different perspective. These are the people who are on the floor, seeing operations in ways that you never will see them.
The people who interact daily with customers know first-hand about repeated requests for products or services that your company does not yet provide. They also know the circumstances that create bottlenecks in your operations and other valuable information that affects the quality and speed of the customer experience.
Your employees are called a “team” for a reason. Treat them with respect and reward their input, and you welcome them to share vital secrets to gain customer loyalty. Empower them to run with the ball and you’ll strengthen the customer experience.
Everyone suffers when wrong customers are right
Guess what? The customer is not always right. When you insist that your employees attempt to support customer inaccuracies, you place them in a frustrating situation while providing a disservice to customers.
It’s one thing to agree to re-ship purple widgets when you know that the customer initially ordered red ones. If you can afford to absorb the cost of this type of customer error — and if it allows you to retain a normally-profitable customer — then go ahead. But, service businesses sell expertise that clients count on to get it right, particularly when their own misinformation can cause harm.
How long will patients be satisfied when opticians permit the purchase of glasses too small to properly support the prescriptions? They may love the way the frames look initially, but they become downright irate when they can’t see. Even if you replace the glasses for free, you still lose a longer-term customer.
Respect is an underappreciated employee benefit
I strongly believe in recognizing employee worth and paying them accordingly. But, generous paychecks alone do not guarantee workforce motivation and spirit. Even a highly-paid workforce operates better when “The customer is always right” is replaced by “Our employees help customers to be right.”
When you show trust and respect for your employees, they extend knowledgeable service to customers. In the end, everyone turns out to be right — including your bottom line.
Carol Roth is a radio host on WGN, a CNBC TV contributor, a ‘recovering’ investment banker & a bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. You can find her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth or at www.CarolRoth.com. She also has an action figure made in her likeness.