Why Putting Your Customer First Can Damage Your Business

An old adage says that the customer is always right.  In the business book of commandments, you might find right next to that: Always put the customer first. These are business rules you can find countless articles about and engrained in our everyday culture. Putting the customer first, in simple terms, means that a business puts the needs and requirements of a customer ahead of anything and everything else. I’d like to challenge this idea.

When you put your customer first, you are creating a culture that is chained to the whim of an outsider, letting your customers and potential customers be the driver of your company’s success.  While customers are very important, one thing should go before them.  Your employees and your talent.  That should be first in line of your concerns, well before your customers.

While numerous surveys, market analysis and research is done to make sure your customers are receiving top notch service with excellent products, little is often done to make sure your employees have resources for professional growth and are supported in a collaborative environment to provide solutions for clients. And, essentially, your employees make up your organization.  It’s the employees who bring their efforts, enthusiasm and talent that make your company shine.  When you have a solid company with satisfied employees giving their full effort, pleased and loyal customers naturally fall in to place.

Over 20 years ago, business professors at Harvard University conducted a study comparing the most profitable service-based companies.  The outcome showed that a 5 percent increase in customer loyalty boosted business sales.  They researched dozens of companies and tracked this concept and came up with the service-profit chain.  This means that profit and growth are driven by customer loyalty. Loyalty is influenced by customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is stimulated by a high perception of value of the service. Service is the result of productive employees. Productivity stems from employee satisfaction.

When you hire talented, passionate, dedicated, genuinely kind people, you are putting yourself in a position to succeed.  Creating a dynamic internal company culture creates a trickle down affect that leads to happier customers.

Each member of your staff that interacts with your customer is capable of strengthening value or diminishing it.  As a business owner, we strive to create invaluable employees that create dynamic value for our customers. When you focus on your people, your people focus on your customer much more.

Empower your employees.  Train them. Teach them.  Provide opportunities for them.

Just because your customers aren’t first, they still are very important to company success. You need to listen to customer feedback to create a better run machine.  In today’s world of instant, constant communication and wide-reaching social networks, every company’s reputation is in the hands of the consumers that engage with that company. While a happy customer may or may not decide to log on to their computer or pick up their smartphone and write a rave review, an unhappy customer is more likely to do so, sometimes creating a digital war against a brand they are unsatisfied with. While you certainly need to listen to these complaints, you need to take them, absorb them and if it is a common thread that seems to keep arising, take note.  Especially in today’s world, companies need to continuously change and adapt to their customer’s ever-changing needs and wants.  If not, a competitor will.

At CMA, we like to focus on keeping our employees empowered by offering company policies and activities that you might not find in every agency.  We keep our employees happy with perks like company BBQs, offering the ability to bring pets to work, summer hours, a relaxed dress code, a laid-out path for success and job trainings are a few examples of the things our employees like about working here.  When employees are happy, they are working hard and delivering excellent results for our clients.  Then our clients are happy because they are receiving great work and achieving goals they’ve set out for their company.

Create a list of how you make your employees feel taken care of.  Identify what they are looking for out of a job, whether by talking directly to them or creating a suggestion box.  Tweak your company culture and offerings where you see fit.  Then watch as your employees feel ready to shine, making a better company for you, them and your customers.

Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA) a full-service, award-winning strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that builds reputation, relationships and return on investment. He can be reached at jbarnhart@cmasolutions.com.

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