It’s been long established that in order for companies to thrive they need to build a strong relationship with their clients. However this path to achieving long-term customer loyalty is not an easy one, with varying forms of practices and beliefs.
Boiled down to its essence, the goal is to achieve a “close-to-indispensable” status with clients. Traditionally, companies have focused on their clients in achieving this relationship, however in recent years, there has been a shift in attitude, stressing instead the importance of putting staff first.
Are Customers “Always” Right?
In the 20th Century, businesses started introducing a new ideology that “Customers are always right”. An initiative made to appeal to the customers, it was seen as a promise made by companies to deliver to the best of their ability in satisfying the needs and desires of their clients.
Though not intended to be taken literally, the use of this ideology can be a stumbling block for many businesses. In recent years, many have criticised this way of thinking as adopting it may do more damage than good to your brand.
There are many aspects where approach falls short (aside from the blatant fact that literally no one is “always” right). For one, it is built on the assumption that your clients actually know what they want. By taking on this belief, you put your business at a place of disadvantage by reducing the company to being a mere “yes man” who panders to your client’s every command.
Doing so not only is not feasible in the long run but you also lose out on the opportunity to bring greater value to your clients in delivering a truly unique brand experience that reflects your company identity.
On top of that, having companies say “customers are always right” really isn’t all that helpful for the employees who have to carry this out in practice, with little clarity on what is actually expected of them.
A study on the link between customer service and customer loyalty published by the Harvard Business Review also found that delighting your clients doesn’t actually lead to customer loyalty. Rather than being a proactive move in gaining customer support, in reality it’s more of a preventive measure from losing existing clients.
Worst of all, after all is said and done simply to minimise the loss of existing clients, businesses run the risk of putting off their employees. Making them feel like they have the short end of the stick while constantly breaking their backs to continuing the business.
Happy Staff, Happy Customers
So how can you actually start pleasing your customers? Well it turns out it all begins with treating your employees right!
Something that we’ve commonly observed in the recent years is that, companies who go the extra mile to treat their staff right in fact produce better results. The idea to “take care of your people first and profits will follow” is one adopted by the likes of Southwest Airline which has seen much success, but why does it work?
A big part of why this works is because for once your attention is turned to the people who have direct contact to the clients, the people first-in-line if you will. Through leading by example and treating your workforce with care and respect they are more likely to replicate that towards your clients. This mentality also means that you are now focused on the internal, something which you have control over, rather than the external.
Before when companies say that they will put their customers first, chances are they would rely on a rigid set of rules which their clients would hopefully appreciate.
This can be problematic for businesses though as they are unable to accurately measure the impact they have. However, when you are instead putting the focus on your staff, you are able to better measure and fine tune your initiatives and observe how they affect your business overall.
By dedicating your resources in putting your people first and clients second also communicates a few important things to your customers.
Contrary to the traditional fear that this mode of thinking will deter customers, rather you are communicating something far more valuable and that is your belief and trust in your people and your brand. Entrusting your staff by putting them first, speaks confidence about what your brand stands for. It is also communicating a sense of responsibility to your staff to do what is right for the brand in treating your customers in a manner that is fit.
“When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.”
– Herbert D. Kelleher, Founder of Southwest Airlines
More importantly is that when customers do meet your people, they are met with people who take pride in what they do and personally identify with the brand. Not only does this mean a more pleasant and gratifying experience overall but most of all a more genuine one that is consistent throughout.
So now some of you may ask, does this only apply to those in the service industry? And is it worth the hassle if it doesn’t apply to me?
Well, it does apply to you! In an experiment conducted in Britain by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy they studied the correlation between happiness at work and productivity. They found that productivity was increased by an average of 12% and could reach as high as 20% when they had boosts of happiness. So imagine what it can do to your workforce and what more it can mean for your brand in the long run.