Taking Care of Business

Every business promises to take care of their customers. Many have departments they call Customer Care. The new “thing” in customer service is called CX which short for the Customer Experience. Companies are investing small fortunes with consultants. All to improve the experience for their customers. 

They do this in an attempt to take care of business. 

But for many of those companies, way way too many, they have put the cart before the horse. 

I fully support anything that improves the customer experience. I’m all in on anything that gives the customer a reason to continue doing business with a company. It’s just that every business is in the people business, no matter the product or service they sell. 

Companies can invest literally millions of dollars trying to improve their customer’s experience. They spend on systems, programs and technology. But if they refuse to invest one dollar on improving the working experience of their employees the customer will never be happy. 

I recall a whole bunch of years ago when the pilots union at one of the major airlines in the US went on strike. It was a pretty contentious strike right from the beginning. Both the company and the pilots union took out ads in the newspapers saying that the other side were basically morons. I still don’t understand the airline’s strategy of telling their customers that the people who were flying them across the country were morons. But that’s another story. 

Part way through the strike one of the pilots was on a local talk radio show discussing the strike. He said something that has stuck with me to this day. He said the crux of the problem at the airline was that they were trying to satisfy customers with dissatisfied employees. 

The employees, throughout the airline, were disgruntled and disengaged. They believed they were taken for granted and disrespected. They passed those feelings on to the customers. 

The “cart” that many companies put before the horse is investing in customer service programs before they invest in the people responsible for implementing the programs. They are trying to make satisfied customers when their employees could be dissatisfied. That is unlikely to work. 

Most companies today know that regardless of what they sell they are in the people business. What they don’t seem to realize is that the employees of the company are people too. While the popular thinking says “the customer comes first” the reality is that unless employees know they matter the customer doesn’t come at all. 

Companies that attempt to take care of business before they take care of their people are making a mistake, often a very costly one. 

The most successful and profitable companies know that it’s their people who create satisfied and loyal customers. Programs, technology and systems do not. What they can do is help the people in the organization better serve customers. But if the people who are employed by the company do not feel valued it’s unlikely they will add much value to the customer. 

That’s why companies that last invest as much in their people as they do their products and customers. 

Does your organization have the cart before the horse? If so a change of focus is in order. Focus on your people first so they will enthusiastically focus on your customers. 

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