There is a saying that your company’s culture is only as good as the worst behavior you are willing to accept. Too often leaders in a company take the hands-off approach of “as long as things get done, I don’t care how they do it.” While employees may enjoy this level of freedom, it also sets up for the doers to do all the work, while the slackers play CandyCrush all day. This can lead to bitterness and disillusion among your employees, who by the way, are the ambassadors of your business.
If you have a bitter, overworked, disillusioned employee as the face of your company, what image do you think your customers are seeing? Even the greatest of actors can let their guard down every now and then. Seeing overworked and bitter employees may lead your customers to think that you are not a good business leader and who wants to give their business to someone who treats their good employees like this? If you only care about the bottom line – the work being done – and not the people doing the work, your customers will come to believe you will treat them the same way.
So, how do you ensure not only your customers are happy, but that your employees are satisfied as well? Here are a few tips:
1. Improving the customer experience starts with the employee experience. Most companies today operate in a top/down environment. Values and priorities at the executive level trickle down and become institutionalized to all employees. If customer service doesn’t have what they need to be successful, it’s because it’s not a priority to those making decisions at the top. If customer service has everything they need to serve the customer, and they seem eager to satisfy the customer, that’s because it’s a priority of the executive leadership. Well-resourced employees feel good about their jobs and when they are feeling appreciated, they will show their appreciation even more to your customers.
2. Showcasing diversity in leadership shows you mirror your diverse workforce and customer base. Ensure that you are hiring diverse leadership. If all your leaders look exactly the same, many employees won’t relate to them. Employees want to see themselves in your leadership, this includes women and various ethnicities. Your customers do not all come from the same background and community group, neither should your leadership.
3. Making the rounds with employees goes a long way. While everyone knows company leaders are busy, they still need to make themselves consistently visible. If you own a regionally diverse company, think about making videos for employees that emphasize what you feel is important to be successful and how they can play a role in that success. If all your employees are in the same location, make sure you are visible by either holding regular staff meetings or walk around and speak to them. Share with them your plans for company growth. Share with them how the company is doing currently. Make them feel valued by sharing with them your time and philosophy.
4. Opening lines of communication is crucial to success. A work culture that involves strong vertical and horizontal communication is more likely to promote positive customer relations. Because culture usually starts with the leader’s philosophy about the business, it must be communicated and bought in by the employees who are putting that philosophy into practice. If customer service is the cornerstone of your business philosophy, then you should practice that with employees which they will then emulate with customers. Additionally, frontline managers and employees must have effective communication to hold each other accountable for behaviors that represent the level of commitment to customers. This is where you walk the talk.
5. Understanding your business reputation in the community. Your business' reputation in the larger community can affect relationships with your customers. For example, a corporation with a reputation for being hard on employees with a heavy turnover or unresponsive to customer complaints may steadily lose customers or receive negative feedback from current customers. Having true self-awareness is key to knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Ask a local businesses about how they view your business. Conduct customer surveys after a trip or after they have called with a question or complaint. Not every complaint leads to a loss of a customer. How you handle complaints is a second chance to make a customer for life.
By looking past the profits and focusing on culture and how your employees and customers view you, you could improve customer relationships and recruit more customers who are attracted to the type of company culture you have created. Customers to feel good about spending their time and money with you and your employees, one way to ensure that is to create a culture that people feel good about supporting.