As business leaders, we've been taught to put customers first, but maybe it's time to reappraise that philosophy.
Consider this: Americans spend close to 33 percent of their day working. Shouldn't they be enjoying that time? And, more importantly, shouldn't it be your job as their employer to make sure they are?
As business leaders, we've been taught to put customers first, but maybe it's time to reappraise that philosophy. If employees are unhappy in their work environment, how can they possibly charm the socks off patrons? Why would they go the extra mile? There's even a direct correlation between the level of your employees' productivity and their level of happiness: The happier they are, the more creative (and productive) they become.
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is vocal about this topic. He believes customer service begins internally. Harvard University researchers concurred with his credo, finding that customer loyalty and brand value directly relate to employee treatment and fulfillment. Their studies indicated corporate profitability could see a leap of up to 85 percent from a slight 5 percent jump in customer satisfaction.
"Great! We'll just pay our workers more!" you might think. Not so fast. Money isn't the end-all answer to the question of how to best motivate workers. Yes, fair pay is essential, but it's a small part of the answer. Employees want empowerment as well as corporate policies built around trust. Only then can businesses move up the value chain, attracting and retaining better talent.
In other words, it's time to become employee-obsessed.
Building a cadre of passionate workers
For a moment, put your external customers aside. Instead, consider the individuals on your payroll. They deserve your attention – without happy, satisfied employees, they'll never amaze your customers.
You have the power to create an enviable, extraordinary team, and businesses that are already committed to employee satisfaction are leading the way. You can learn from them, but you also must be willing to take a few specific measures.
1. Believe your people can be great
To uncover the hidden gems inside your business's talent pool, you have to dive in without hesitation and support them unconditionally. This requires that you see all employees as A-players and treat them accordingly. Coach them, invest time and resources in their development, and help them nurture their individual greatness. Pushing and challenging employees takes a special kind of leadership: no knee-jerk threats, no FBI-like micromanagement – just praise for hard work and smart choices as well as personalized, respectful feedback.
2. Practice radical candor
Are you known for bringing down the hammer at annual reviews but saying nothing negative on a day-to-day basis? Employees wind up confused and angry. In their minds, you weren't up front with their performance when it mattered, so why should they care that you're bringing up issues from six months prior? Candor should be balanced: When someone does well, speak up. And when they make errors, address them immediately. Give employees the opportunity, whenever possible, to rectify mistakes.
3. Make employee satisfaction your No. 1 metric
It seems like many companies regularly gauge and monitor customer satisfaction, but they rarely take employee satisfaction as seriously. A Gallup study found that a whopping 87 percent of employees worldwide aren't engaged. Some suggest the reason behind that is failure on the employer's part to make staff satisfaction a top priority.
At TaskUs, we flipped this philosophy and discovered that by taking a chance on our employees, we could enhance customer loyalty. We asked what mattered to them – ideal commute times, actually liking the product they're promoting, enjoying their team lead, etc. – and used that information to open untapped productivity.
"We wanted to create a company and culture where employees loved to come to work and enjoyed what they did for our clients," said Bryce Maddock, CEO of TaskUs.
Today, our teammates are more productive, qualified and eager. Plus, attendance has improved, especially among promoters. Promoters are workers who rate our company at least a 9 on our employee net promoter score 10-point scale. At the other end of the scale are detractors: less-engaged employees who rated us six or lower. By putting all our efforts into our promoters, we slashed attrition rates, a silent killer in any business.
4. Treat employees as people, not commodities
When an employee isn’t delivering top-notch customer service, your first instinct might be to lower the boom and make threats or remove responsibilities. That type of response is far too simplistic and may backfire. What if an employee has a father in the hospital or she's agonizing over how to pay her child’s college tuition?
Knowing the reason an employee is contributing less than they should provide you a rare opportunity to coach them. Perhaps you can help remedy the situation by offering bonuses if specific performance metrics are hit. This gives the employee a realistic motivator to do well and to ease the burdens preventing them from being exceptional – and that underlying support of your employees gets passed along to your customers.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care." While most of us think of his quote in terms of customers, it holds just as much weight when it comes to employees. How you treat your workers today is how they'll treat your customers tomorrow. If you want people to rave about your company, you only need to look at the names on your payroll to find the people who can make customer service magic happen.