I recently read an interesting article by Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, titled: Why I put My Employees Ahead of My Customers. It discusses why HCL put employees ahead of customers.
I believe that you don’t need to choose one over the other. You can make your employees happy and delight your customers.
Indeed, the purpose of a company is to acquire and retain (read delight) customers. However, to be successful a company needs to perform well on all fronts. This includes developing great products/services, providing excellent customer experience, and having great execution.
Furthermore, company performance = employees’ performance; and happy employees make customers happy. That can only be achieved by having highly motivated and committed employees. Therefore, it needs to be a priority for leaders at all levels in the company.
There should be no conflict between providing great customer experience and also taking care of your people. Some good examples are Zappos, Ritz Carlton, and Southwest Airlines.
However, when you only focus on your customers and don’t treat your employees the same, they will eventually leave you.
Take for example Singapore Airlines. A company that treats customers like kings, and employees (with the exception of pilots) like pawns. As soon as attractive alternatives, such as Emirates, and Qatar Airways, became available some of the best cabin crew left SIA to join these other airlines. There they helped them provide a best-in-class customer service that rivaled that of SIA. These were the very same people who were responsible for providing the famous SQ in-flight service.
In Mr. Nayar’s own words: “What we want at HCL is passion. We have found that the Employees First approach produces far more passion than any [other] program. Why? Because it proves that management understands the importance of the work being done by the employees … It shows that we trust them to do what needs to be done in the way they believe it should be done. And it shows that we respect them for the value they bring to the company.”
In conclusion, a company cannot generate consistent revenue and profit growth without winning and retaining loyal customers. However, to achieve that it needs to recruit and develop highly motivated and passionate employees.
What do you think? Who would you put first?