• Sara Mays

Who is Your Customer? And 2 Ways to Keep Them Happy

Updated: May 16, 2018

One of the challenges when growing a business is identifying the customer. Companies strive to obtain more accurate information, from numbers of clicks in an online store to in-store strategies like traffic counters and cameras. Many companies have built a business model around helping you identify which direction the customer walks when they enter your store or how long they shop a specific fixture.

But all of that is for naught if you’re not taking care of your number 1 customer- your employees.

Yes, your employee is customer #1. Regardless of your business, from a physician’s office to a retail store, everyone has employees, and a leader’s first concern should always be their staff. Many respected leaders have emphasized the importance of employees including Arthur Blank who summed it up clearly when he stated, “We naturally saw our associates as our most precious asset. It was our obligation - our responsibility as managers - to take care of our people, because they took care of our customers."

Think about that for a second. Do you really treat your employees as if they were your customers, clients, or patients? Do you accept employee calls as quickly as calls from your customers? Are you engaging your employees on a regular basis?

I once had a client that wanted me to put together a customer service training program. I spent time with his staff and learned that they did not feel supported. One example provided was that a customer had slapped one of the employees, and the owner was planning to allow the customer to return to his business. When I suggested to the owner that allowing this customer to return to the business could be detrimental to staff morale, he looked at me confused. I recommended that we collaborate on an employee appreciation program and then move to customer service training. Yet after weeks of follow-up, I realized that he wasn’t going to come around, so I’m sure the cycle of not being appreciated is still felt by his employees and customers. They don't feel important OR even heard.

Aside from not allowing customers to abuse employees, how else can we show our employees that we care?

Rule #1: Simple Acts of Kindness

Demonstrate empathy. You can do this with low key questions like, “Are you planning a vacation?” Their responses may lead to something more. Perhaps the employee will tell you that he is planning to go see his parents, as they are getting older, and he’s worried. I once had a staff member whose wife was having a complicated pregnancy. I encouraged him to work from home as often as necessary. Years later, he was still grateful for that small gesture.

Keep in mind that empathy can’t be faked. If you seriously don’t care, don’t ask. I’ve had bosses ask, and then look at their phone and nod their head. Authenticity always counts.

Rule #2: Help Them Grow

Working with small businesses we hear about how challenging it is to keep and develop people. Leaders must be creative when it comes to furthering a person’s skills, but don’t overlook the most important piece- simply asking your team members how you can help them grow, develop, and move closer to their goals.

A fantastic book by Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager, reflects how engaging employees on their dreams and then working with them on plans to achieve their dreams can show the depth of your concern for them as a person. The book tells the parable of a company with exceedingly high employee turnover. A manager is directed to reduce it and ultimately lands on hiring a financial planner to help his staff achieve their dreams.

I’m certainly not proposing something this complex, but ask yourself if you really know what your staff’s goals are. If you don’t, ask. Brainstorm with them on what skills they need to achieve those goals. By listening and collaborating, you may give them ideas and the optimism they need to move forward. Think of it as being their mentor.

As a business owner or leader, are you taking care of the “customer” that is right in front of you? Utilize the inverted pyramid philosophy that puts your employees at the top and ensures that you help your staff. They will then help your customers, clients, and patients.

If you’d like to improve the employee and your customer’s experience, we can help. We’re confident your customers and employees will thank you.

Sara Mays

Principal Consultant

The Retail Coach Consultant Group – NY