I write this more from an anecdotal perspective with a bit of personal experience thrown in. I have not researched for countless hours or surveyed a thousand people. Yet, I don’t believe I’m the only one who feels this to be true.
We need to expect more
There. I said it.
We need to have higher expectations as customers, employees and businesses. Whether you’re a freelancer, a multimillion dollar CEO, a parent, hi-tech startup or server waiting tables, customer/employee/business practices should be held to a higher standard.
This goes for anyone who participates in the business model of payment in exchange for services—Scratch that. Even if the services are free, but still involves some type of human interaction, it should be held to a higher standard than the current status quo.
Who needs customers, anyway?
Employees and customers are vital to a business’s success.
This seems simple, right? Yet it boggles my mind how so many companies, customers and employees can forget this simple concept.
How many times have you called customer service to be immediately put into a queue by an automated answering service? Or you’re given the runaround then placed on terminal hold because no one has the solution to your problem? Or discovered that you are, in fact, considered more a nuisance rather than a golden opportunity to improve some aspect of a company’s product?
Rarely, have I bought an item from a company and came away feeling as if I made a great purchase and that–-gasp!—the company actually valued my patronage. Now, whether they really did or not is questionable, but it’s all about the psychology of comfort, right?
My hubby once had a Chevrolet, and when it needed servicing for the first time, he took it to the dealership for routine maintenance. When there, he was given the runaround and hassled for needing to have his car fixed! I guess some companies don’t need money these days, because he never went back and purchased a Nissan the next go-around.
His treatment by Chevrolet told us at least three things about the company:
- Chevrolet hires awful staff who are obviously disconnected from their customers.
- Chevrolet sees their customers as a nuisance.
- Chevrolet could care less about the efficiency of their product or the safety of their customers while they use it.
Hyundai, however, provided a different story. Whenever I take my car into the dealership for service (which I admit I have slacked on recently), the service and employees are not only excellent, but Hyundai calls within 2-3 days to ask about my experience.
This lets me know at least three things up front about Hyundai as a company:
- Hyundai cares about the quality of their products.
- Hyundai cares about me as a customer and realizes that I may hold valuable information that could better their brand.
- Hyundai understands that their cars are not their only product, but that the overall business experience they provide actually is, and they hire the right people who also believe and implement this philosophy.
The old adage “It takes a village …” doesn’t just apply to the local kids
What kind of village are you creating for your employees? An employee’s attitude is usually reflective of the corporate home they grow up in (though, there are always exceptions as some people are natural buttholes). From what I can see (with Chevrolet being a good example), a lot of employees are coming from broken homes.
Want angry employees ruining your brand? Or do you want to see your business grow? If you want the latter, don’t prevent the process by mistreating the people who work for you by creating a toxic environment.
Employees are your first line of customers and reps of your brand. If you create a space which lowers morale, harbors animosity and disrespect, they won’t stick around for long, and most certainly won’t value your brand. And if they don’t value your brand, why should you expect them to put forth effort to make others do so?
Take care of those who are doing most of the foot-traffic and heavy-lifting on a day-to-day basis, and not just those regulated to the top. A company that requires a culture that treats staff with human decency and respect, and maintains a true open-door communication policy, will likewise have employees willing and wanting to do the same in return.
A company who’s getting it right
Costco seems to have gotten the memo and made the significant move of focusing on other aspects of the company besides its bottom line. They realized that their business doesn’t just consist of the products on their shelves, but lies in their employees comfort and trust they have in the company.
Costco’s employee work package is based on the philosophy of former co-founder and CEO, James Sinegal. He insisted then and now that employees should
- Make a living wage.
- Have access to health care.
- Maintain a work/life balance.
Mr. Sinegal resisted Wall Street’s methodology that in order for discount retail to be successful, it must slash employee wages and benefits, or increase prices substantially.
However, living wages and access to benefits are the main reasons Costco experiences happier employees, low turnover and employee theft; leading to record profits as customers shop more due to low prices that aren’t made available to them at employee expense.
In fact, Senigal maintains that if he were to follow Wall Street’s business practices, Costco would be out of business in no time.
Learning to expect the unexpected
Customer, employee and business standards have fallen so low over the years that no one expects to be treated well anymore.
This is just plain wrong.
If someone (customer, employee or business owner) is willing to spend time and money which helps a company become successful, being treated with and giving respect should be the norm. Not the exception.
Although Hyundai’s and Costco’s philosophies seem to be common sense … Sadly, in a lot of businesses, common sense isn’t all that common. And, frankly, in this day and age, it’s an unbelievable shame.
Until next time …