I recently had the opportunity to share a conversation about an article I posted in the online publication Customer Think, a great online source for customer service articles. The article was about the importance of being employee-focused as a precursor to becoming customer-focused, and I shared an interesting dialogue about the topic with Bob Thompson, the editor in chief at Customer Think, and Michael Lowenstein, a fellow author.
I have written several articles and social media posts recently about my belief that a company needs to first focus on its employees before it can become customer-focused. I have noted that customer service begins with the employees – all employees of an organization, from the leaders to entry-level hires. To ensure a high quality customer experience, those on the inside of the organization must practice service with one another. All employees must treat each other the way the customer is to be treated.
In the conversation about my online article, Bob Thompson disagreed with my perspective. He interprets some concepts differently and believes that a company must be customer-focused first. There are even some companies that have had both a great atmosphere for the employees and amazing customer service and have still failed. The other part that is needed is a great product – a very customer-focused element. Without a quality product that customers will buy, all the customer service in the world will not make a business successful. Bob noted the tech companies of the dot.com era, in which employees worked in lavish work environments yet companies still failed. Here, I believe it was that the product did not generate enough revenue to support the company despite the quality of the employee environment or customer experience.
To support my views, I compare the lists of the top customer service companies with those of the best companies to work for. There is too much overlap for it to be coincidental – there is a definite connection between being employee-focused and offering good customer service.
However, Bob Thompson has a valid point. I would agree that the first decision that must be made is the goal to become customer-focused. From there, I believe that the process and the steps to achieving the goal must begin within the organization. The leadership must formulate the process and the members of the organization then have to act upon it. This means hiring the right people, training them in customer service as well as their job skills, and then empowering them to carry out the vision of the company in providing customer service. The employees must work for the goal in order for the company to achieve it.
So, you start with the end in mind – set the goal – and then focus on the employees who will make it happen.