Companies have been building their corporate philosophy and values on the «customer is king » mantra for ages. And you would probably say that it makes perfect sense since without the client, you would not exist and you would be totally right. BUT.. a few months ago, while I was travelling to New York for my holidays, something hit me really hard. If you want to make happy customers, you need to have happy employees first.
Let me give you a little bit of background here. I was about to take-off with a Belgian airlines company when we had an engine problem. The flight got cancelled, everything got chaotic, and this is where the troubles started. The communication was confused and I was struggling to get any concrete information. Every time I was trying to talk to someone from the staff, they kept saying « I don’t know », « there is nothing I can do ». That was no one’s fault and no one wanted to help me.
At first I thought, « damn, what a poor crisis management » then I started realizing that it wasn’t a matter of organization or terrible communication skills. People I was talking to simply didn’t care… And it wasn’t just one person or two, every single contact point I had was close to 0 on their ‘give-a-f***-o-meter’. So my question was « Why? » How come they don’t care enough to even pretend finding a solution? Then I started thinking that maybe their work conditions weren’t good enough to make them feel like real company ambassadors, like the pillars of the whole organization. Maybe their work conditions just made them want to « do the job » and that’s it. If no one cares enough to take the responsibility for what is happening then it probably means no one really cares about how those people feel in this company either.
The thing is that most of businesses still have this upper, middle, lower management structure and somewhere above, we have a bunch of wonderful values, among which the well-known « customer is king » philosophy. The problem is that, in most cases, the person who is actually in contact with the client has a manager, who has a manager, who also has a manager.. well you see my point here. I am not saying that this « hierarchy » is wrong ! For some companies, it works very well. What is actually wrong here is that the « customer is king » mantra often turns into pressure. The top management will evaluate the success of its business based on clients purchases, clients satisfaction, etc. Basically, it’s all about pressure to make sure that they client is satisfied and if we had to schematize it, it would look like that.
« To make this business work, we need to make our clients happy » people think but they often forget to see if the employees who are actually in contact with the customers are happy too. To resume, people under pressure are supposed to be totally devoted to the clients. You probably know how this ends…
For me, the scheme should be a slightly different.
At Brand New Day, we always put the team first (sorry, clients, it’s for the greater good ;)). Caring about employees is kind of a trendy topic right now – I know – but it means so much more than a nice work environment, regular drinks and great team-buildings.
For us, caring about the team is respecting a few essential rules:
1) Never cancel on internal plans
One common mistake you can make in management is thinking that cancelling on internal meetings, and statuses is « okay » because you know, it’s internal. Scheduling new meetings during your internal statuses is not a great way to show your coworkers how important they are (yes, even if it’s a « really important client » or an « amazing business opportunity »).
2) Give your team a real flexibility and trust them
Nowadays, home working has become really common but being really flexible doesn’t only mean allowing your employees to do some teleworking while being super uptight when they are at work. In our industry, sometimes we undergo big pressure, huge rushes, chaotic campaign launches, etc. and these moments often imply unpaid extra working hours so when the workload start cooling down, give the team a break. They need a longer lunch pause, they want to leave work earlier? That’s fine! You know this is all about balance. At the end of the day, if the work is done, who cares they spent 2 hours at the coffee machine? You know, you can count on them when you need them to be extra focussed!
Of course, all of this implies you should really trust your collaborators but if you work with people you don’t trust, well, that’s another issue..
3) Don’t forget to be a nice human, always
We spend a big part of our life at work so being surrounded by nice people can certainly bring a serious boost to our mood and thus to our productivity and creativity. Taking the time to talk with your team and really get to know them is really important now matter what your management level is. Showing your coworkers that you are human and not flawless will only make the communication smoother and what’s more important than communication anyway? Whether it’s your marriage or your work relationships, communicating is always key.
Now, some of you might probably say that I am being an utopian here but I am only talking from experience. All I can say is that we have a great team, no turn-over and satisfied clients (with over 90% of retention for years now). Call us lucky if you want. Personally, I just think that we are investing in long-term relationships whether it’s with our collaborators or or clients!