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Your Employee is Your Customer Too!

By Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR


Imagine this common scenario if you will…

It’s a crazy day at work! A machine is down, an employee called out and you have a project due by the end of the day.  You, Misty Manager, are stressed, frustrated, and nervous you are about to lose a customer, if not your job.  As you are trying to figure out how to finish the project on time, Sally Superstar knocks on our door and says, “Boss, do you have a minute?  I want to talk to you about something.”  You are thinking, “SERIOUSLY?!  She knows what is going on right now, what could possibly be so important?! Nothing! Grrrr.”  So, you respond curtly to Sally by saying, “I don’t have time for you right now, I’ll get with you later.”  Then you forget, and you never follow up.  The next day, Sally asks to speak with you again, and you dismiss her.  You figure if it was that important, she would make you listen and she is a top performer, she can handle whatever the issue is.  A week later, she asks to speak with you again.  You finally have some time, so you ask her, “Sure, what’s up?”  Sally shares with you that she has some concerns about Rita Rude.  You think her concerns are trivial and a waste of time.  You interrupt Sally and reply, “I think you may be overreacting or sensitive, I don’t think it is that big of a deal.  I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it.  You know how she is.  Just let it blow over.”   Two months later, Sally resigns.  You have lost one of your top performers and you don’t understand why.  Sally mentioned something about a concern not being resolved, but it wasn’t a big deal – right? 

WRONG!  As a Human Resources Consultant, I often work with clients on employee issues and morale.  I have found that one of the easiest and most effective ways to resolve employee concerns and increase morale is to simply treat your employee’s as you would treat your customers.  Whether it is Sally Superstar or Nick Needsyouthisminute or Cindy Complainer, your employees are your internal customers and should be treated as such.  If a customer came to you with a concern, how would you address it?  You would likely listen and address their concern with urgency.

In the scenario above, if Misty Manager treated Sally like a customer, she might not have resigned.  Would you ever talk to a customer that way?  Would you dismiss them repeatedly?  Would you interrupt?  Would you ignore their concerns?  I would hope not.  Misty should have taken a moment to treat Sally like a customer interruption.  To clarify – I am not saying to always drop what you are doing to answer an employee question.  However, you should take the time to hear the concern so that you can prioritize and determine action (harassment allegation vs. scheduling change).  Is this something that must be addressed now or can I schedule a time with Sally to discuss later? And if you schedule later, the key is the follow up.  If you don’t follow up, you have lost credibility with the employee.

Would you like to know a secret?  Employees, like customers, often just want to be heard.  They feel valued and validated when someone takes the time to listen.  When you can resolve the concern, resolve it quickly and follow back up with the employee to let them know the situation is resolved.  Just like you would with a customer.

[It’s okay that sometimes the answer is “no.”  The employee may ask for something that you can’t or will not provide.  Explain the “why” behind the “no”, as well as the “yes.”  Communication and transparency is key to employee relations.  I discovered long ago that not everyone would leave my office happy.  What I realized is that it is important for the employee to understand, but they do not have to necessarily agree.]

At the end of the day – employees want to be heard and valued, just like your customers.  Sometimes, we just need a reminder.

If you want to increase performance and morale – treat your employees like you treat your customers.  It really can be that simple!

This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.

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