By Perminus Wainaina
The common perception across organizations and businesses in Kenya is that the Customer is always right. This has led most employers today to put greater emphasis on customer satisfaction than their employees; a situation that continues to drive an unhappy workforce.
But is this right? Is having little regard for the value employees bring to a company beneficial in any way? Richard Branson, the successful Virgin boss, has over time spoken openly about the challenges a company faces by not putting their employees first.
In an interview with Inc.Com , Branson is surprised that more companies are yet to adopt a management strategy that is focused on employees. “Unhappy employees can ruin the brand experience for numerous customers. By not treating the employees well, companies risk losing customers over bad service,” says Branson.
You will agree that the employment scene in Kenya is shaky and unpredictable. Organizations experience high turnovers, especially in their Sales departments, and miscommunication is very common. All these factors are why you will find most employees disengaged, customers are unhappy, and your company not growing as you want it to. If the business or organization is facing these issues, then it may be time to change up the management style and focus on employees.
If this has not convinced you yet, here are the benefits you stand to gain.
Reasons to Always Put Your Employees First
- Happy employees lead to happy customers and a strong brand
Once you focus on the state of your employees and provide them with necessary tools to keep them happy and engaged, you can expect them to reciprocate that treatment to the customers. On the other hand, if employees don’t feel appreciated and are not happy working for the company, then this attitude could rub off on clients.
Think about it; employees interact with customers directly and could say anything about the company’s culture, products and services. What employees say about your business is very important. Happy employees will always have something good to say, leading to happy customers and a strong brand. The opposite is true with unhappy employees.
- You cannot control everything your employees do
As an employer, however much you may want to know what your employees are up to at all times, you cannot control everything. Engaged and motivated employees will do the ‘right ‘ thing without the need for constant supervision.
- The customer is not always right
Customers come in different shapes; there is the unreasonable type that is never pleased no matter what and those who are just plain wrong. If as an employer you always side with customers instead of your employees, you risk having an unhappy workforce and even worse customer service.
- Happy employees will solve problems without being prompted
Every business experiences challenges in its daily operations and when this happens, employers will need employees to help fix the problems. When you have a happy workforce, your employees will always take the initiative to solve problems before they get worse. On the other hand, an unhappy employee will just move along and watch as the issue escalates.
When employees are put first before customers, they feel a sense of ownership to the business and feel responsible for every little thing. They feel the need to be part of the business and happy enough to do everything they can to propel its growth.
So, how can you keep employees happy?
Keeping employees happy can be difficult for most businesses as it requires that you understand what they want and their individual motivations. It can also be challenging to tell if your employees are happy, which is why you may want to use an employee satisfaction survey to know for sure. But before even that, here is how to keep employees happy.
- Pay your employees the market rate
The worst thing you can do as an employer is assume that people are working for you out of desperation, hence offer them low salaries. Once your employees find out that they are underpaid, their attitude towards your business changes and they become disengaged and you start pulling in different directions. This could have a huge impact on your company’s bottom-line.
If you are not sure of what the market rate for a position is, you can browse similar job adverts, take a survey on other businesses or consult recruiters.
- Employees are adults and you should treat them as such
A business that is built on open communication will do better than one that is not. Employees want to know the truth and be addressed in a straightforward manner. If the business is not doing so well, the employees want to know. If the company is going through a merger or any other important issue that could affect employees, they will want to know. Being open with employees promotes an engaged workforce. Threats and intimidation only yield temporary results.
- Understand you are the boss and act like it
While your company may operate on an open culture, there are limits to the level of openness you should have with your employees. As a boss, you need to be consistent and avoid portraying that you are equal to your employees. The reality is that you are not. It is important to maintain an open relationship, but not one of peers.
Putting customers first before employees will be putting your business at risk. Employees need to feel appreciated and respected if they are to deliver on what you want, and in return contribute to the growth of the business. This then mirrors on the customers and the results thereafter are everything you have always envisioned for your business.
But how do you know if your employees are happy or not? Do not make an assumption when it comes to the engagement of employees. Take your employees through a few questions in form of a job satisfaction survey to know for sure. The surveys can be anonymous, making the results more credible and honest.