At one point, all businesses must contend with a challenging question. That is, which is more important to them, their customers or employees? This question has been discussed thoroughly in an article published on Forbes by client experience and luxury hospitality expert Bruce Claver.
Bruce Claver regarded the question as a chicken and egg dilemma. Meaning, it’s difficult to ascertain, which comes first. He provided two perspectives on the issue. First, he cites why customers matter more. The core of the argument is the fact that no business will thrive without a source of revenue. Even startups that made do of few to zero revenue had to find a steady stream of income at some point to keep their investors.
Bruce Claver played devil’s advocate by also supporting the case of employees. He zeroed in on how happy employees translate to happy customers. He cited the story of Continental Airlines as an example. In 1994, Continental hired Gordon Bethune as President. He then changed the company’s toxic internal culture. Soon Continental Airlines was no longer a poor performer in customer service rankings. It even made it to Fortune’s list of top 100 companies to work for.
Both are sound arguments. And Bruce Claver concluded that it’s a question that will find no definite answer. However, we can work around that impasse by a minor tweaking of definitions. Why not regard the word customer as an umbrella term? And as an umbrella term, it covers both external and internal customers. The buyer of your products and services are your external customers. Meanwhile, your employees are your internal customers.
Make your external customers happy
The people paying for your products and services should be happy with their purchase. If they are not satisfied with what they bought, no repeat transaction will happen. You cannot expect word-of-mouth referrals either. Those two are crucial for any business to keep their income stream.
So the first thing you must do is to maintain the quality of your products and services. They should be consistently well-done so as not to confuse customers. Your customer service should be impeccable as well.
To know how your customers feel about your business, you can do a customer experience survey. You can pack this survey with the essential questions that will help you navigate how to serve your external customers better.
Make your internal customers satisfied
It’s not enough that your products or services are always on-point that your external customers won’t have anything to complain about what they paid for. Remember that customer experience is just as important. If your team on the floor is dissatisfied with their job, their dissatisfaction will manifest in how they interact with external customers.
And if your internal customers are far from friendly and helpful, your external customers might walk the other direction straight to your competition. With that in mind, you must be as careful about your internal customers’ happiness.
The most direct way to keep your internal customers happy is by providing their needs. You pay them fair wages. You give them government-imposed benefits. Giving them extra won’t hurt. Prioritizing a healthy workplace culture is of the essence. Nobody wants to work in an environment where they feel like their growth and voice are stifled.
In the aforementioned article, Bruce Claver argues that instead of weighing the importance of customers and employees against each other, businesses must zero in on the person in charge. That’s either the president or the CEO. He asserts that the top-ranking officials of an organization set the tone for the company’s culture.
And that culture is largely responsible for whether both internal or external customers stay happy and satisfied. That’s an argument we can get behind.