Customer growth, satisfaction, and loyalty. Those are your goals.
With those set in place, you can get to pretty much any other business goal, right? Entire swaths of the budget are dedicated to customer loyalty programs, marketing, and everything under the sun to attract and keep customers.
But maybe you’re like many business owners and you’re trying to get to those goals in a backwards way. You’ve made it your goal to put customers first and the goal is just about as far away as it ever was.
Building a loyal and amazing customer base requires that you put your employees first.
Putting Your Employees First
What does it even mean to put employees first?
As a business owner, you have a lot of moving pieces vying for your attention. There is no shortage of concerns that demand to be put first.
Yet putting employees first is crucial, and it doesn’t mean you let something else slide. It means putting the person before their performance. It means seeing employees as more than a collection of skills and reliable work that you can bank on, and as individuals whose well-being and happiness matter to you.
When employees are put first, before customers and before bottom lines and before any other concern, they will be loyal. They don’t want to leave where they’re wanted and valued.
And best of all? They provide the best customer service.
Employee-First Culture And Customer Service
Most business owners are programmed to think that the customer comes first, and then the employees. It would seem like that is the path towards great customer service, making sure customers are front and center, but in reality, it’s completely backwards.
Remember, your employees are the face of your customer service.
According to Richard Branson, building an employee-first culture is actually the better move. In an interview about employee-first culture , Branson explained. “If employees are happy, they’ll make customers happy. If employees are unhappy, they’re only going to treat customers poorly and ultimately hurt the brand.”
It’s basic math, really.
Truly great customer service in which employees genuinely want to make customers happy stems from loving their job and caring about the success of the business.
Knowing that 70% of your operating costs are associated with your employees (i.e. “human capital”), there should be significant motivation to protect that investment by putting them first. An employee first culture attracts employees, and keeps employees.
How To Build An Employee-First Culture
Every business, whether one employee or 20,000, can create an employee-first culture. There are many creative examples of how this has been done, but the basic ideas are the same.
Talk to your employees.
The best first step whenever you’re doing something that will impact your employees is to talk to them first. The very act of doing so is its own signal that you’ve placed real value on their thoughts and ideas.
Ask them what kinds of things would make their work more enjoyable. It might be something as simple as a more relaxed dress code, or more flexibility in work hours.
Whatever it is, don’t just focus on freebies and perks, but also on levels of responsibility that promote a sense of ownership and pride in the business. Your employees already have a LOT of ideas of what would make work more enjoyable, and are ready to tell you if you’re truly willing to hear them.
Invest into your employees.
Businesses should invest and build into their employees.
No, this isn’t just about getting them the training to do their specific job, but actually investing into their lives so that even the areas of life outside of their job see a benefit.
Starbucks helped pay for secondary education . Pixar created their own “ Pixar university ” that gave employees a chance to learn new things. It’s not unheard of to discover employers who provide free counseling, health club memberships, and other similar perks.
When you invest in your employees right now, you are actually investing in their future. If employees are “human capital” and you are investing, you’re growing that capital in a sense. You’re creating more valuable employees.
Care about your employees.
Everybody has their ups and downs. Work can be challenging. Customers can be challenging. Issues in personal lives have an impact on work life. All of these factors play a role in mental health, and that mental health often defines a happy employee or one barely hanging on.
HR can be helpful in this, particularly in being sure you’re in compliance with any privacy laws. Be on the lookout for changes in usual employee behavior.
Employees who are working a lot of overtime are worth checking in on to make sure they’re doing OK. Employees who have come in late recently, despite a good record of attendance, may have some struggles at home and would appreciate a change in work schedule if you’d offer it.
Employee first means caring about how employees are doing, not just how they’re performing.
Make scheduling and communication easy.
Juggling work schedules and personal life is one of the biggest pain points for any employee. Anything you can do to make this area easier fits into an employee-first culture. Where are some areas you can do this in?
- Aim for flexible work schedules so work and life balance is a possibility. Allow flexibility in start and stop times, or even in the days of week when possible, in a way that makes sense in your business.
- Easy communication surrounding work schedules, including the ability to make changes and contact you (or the scheduling manager) without difficulty.
- A simpler system that makes scheduling easier for you or the manager in charge of it. Your time is valuable. Wasting it on clunky scheduling tasks means you’re not doing something else that needs to be done.
- A system that makes scheduling abuse difficult. Resentment will grow if some employees abuse scheduling to their advantage at others expense. That resentment will be directed at you and your business if you do nothing about it.
In other words, find a scheduling system that isn’t a drain on everyone using it. Which leads to the next point…
Exist where your employees exist.
The scheduling software you choose should be mobile.
Consider that today, most of us live in two places: in our home, and on our mobile phones.
The same goes for your employees. They are active on their mobile phones, and it’s where they go to connect and communicate with everyone, all of the time. They manage their life from their mobile phone, not the bulletin board in the employee break room.
Mobile scheduling gives your employees some real benefits:
- They get to define when they’re available. Instead of making their life fit into work, employees can view work as fitting into their life. That’s a huge switch and mental gain.
- They can easily swap shifts. When something pops up at the last minute, employees can work with each other to swap and cover shifts. No stress, no need to go to the boss, just pure adaptation and teamwork.
- They can make plans. With a mobile app, they can look at the schedule whenever and wherever they need to. From home, from vacation, from the break room, it doesn’t matter. They can get all the information they need about upcoming schedules on their mobile device.
- They can communicate with you and each other easily. Trying to communicate in places that your employees aren’t present isn’t helpful at all. As an employer, you need to meet your employees where they’re at. Everyone on the same page in the same place–that builds a team.
This same list of employee benefits can be applied to the person making the schedule, too. There’s a lot of time that gets saved with a mobile system.
The end game–customer service and customer loyalty–is easy to identify, but the path there gets lost. It’s by putting your employees first and enriching and making their lives easier that you end up providing customers with the best service possible. Focus on your employees. The customer service will fall in line.