By: Kamil Toume
Before start reading this article, I would like to point out this issue, I am deliberately using the word “associates” instead of the word” employees to describe people. The word “employees” belongs to the factory mode of management and it dehumanizes the true human nature of people as human beings. Thanks for your attention.
Let us start by asking the following question, are customers always right? Definitely no. The concept of customers are always right is one of the most misleading mottos ever used in business. Customers are human beings and human beings can be right, wrong, dishonest, unrealistic and so on. At the end of the day, they are human beings. When companies adopt and blindly believe this idea, the inevitable happens meaning if customers are always right, there is another group of human beings’ “associates” inhumanely referred to them as employees are always wrong. This motto was coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909 viewing customers as the most intelligent creatures on the planet and employees must give them a good service. Most businesses all over the world still worship this motto “customers are always right” and make it the cornerstone of their customer service and marketing strategy. When it comes to customers, most organisations from their CEOs at the top till the receptionist bow down and salute them whether they are right or wrong. Customers are the cash flow and cash flow is why everyone is in the job and keeps the job.
The motto of customers are always right has a devastating effect on the associates whose job is to make the customers happy and satisfied. It is one of the leading causes for the associates’ disengagement and loss. Understanding the narrative behind this wrong concept allows us to understand that there is a structural failure in understanding true leadership by most leaders. Associates and customers are both human beings and both groups could be right or wrong at a time. It is very essential to understand as a business leader that your associates empower your customers when buying from your business.
Every human being matters. Associates and customers are people.
Who do you put first, associates or customers? Both should be first. In fact, putting associates first and treating them well can be successful to satisfy customers and put them first too. Your associates are the ones who deal with customers and happy associates mean happy customers.
You put your associates first and they put customers first too.
If you tell your associates that customers are always first, you will make them feel like that they are second. The more you genuinely care for your associates and treat them well, the happier your customers become. This is most efficient ROI tool that you can have as a business leader to apply in your business. Creating an empowering, motivational and joyful environment for your associates will channel the positive energy and fulfilment to your customers. Positive people will channel positive energy to other people.
Putting associates and customers first is an act of leadership.
Putting associates and customers first is the first action step in the leadership journey. It is not a governing document or a procedure that is to be followed by heart to fulfil the requirements. Also, it is not a catchy advertising slogan which applies to any marketing and media campaign. Validating the integrity of your leadership in putting associates and customers first is easily done through answering such questions:
- What is your business set to achieve beyond making money?
- Is there a purpose story behind your brand? If yes. What is your brand purpose?
- Do your customers know it? Can they articulate the brand purpose or the grand business purpose?
- What inspires your customers to do business with you away from discounts and free offers?
- What are the things that inspire your associates and make them hold close to their hearts?
If you want to navigate through the leadership lens, you need to consider these questions, think about them, reignite your business purpose, re-purpose your brand and rediscover what you stand for before expecting people to stand with you and do business with you.