Internal Customers

The Importance of Internal Customer Success

Your employees are your internal customers.

My last blog post, Customers Make the World Go Round, discussed how the customer experience is crucial to an organization’s success. There’s a different type of customer I want to talk about today: the internal customer, a.k.a. the employee—who’s actually more important than external customers.

Study after study has evidenced the importance of putting employees first and customers second. The reason is simple: Happy employees = happy customers. Unhappy employees tend to do the minimum, great workers who don’t feel appreciated quit, and poor managers negatively affect workers and productivity—all of which negatively affect the customer experience.

No lip service.

In an employee-first culture, commitment to employees requires actions to speak louder than words. From the top down, the entire organization must believe in the culture and live and breathe it. Every day. Trust, accountability, empowerment and demonstrating that employees are valued are some of the things that go into making this type of culture successful.

And really, it’s that simple. If you tell your employees something, follow through with it exactly as you said you would. Set the expectation that everyone has a role and must be held accountable for their performance—so favoritism doesn’t become an issue.

Empowerment wins the day.

It is also important to show the employee you value them and what they bring to the table. Fortune.com recently highlighted 30 companies that put their employees first, which include some high profile names like Google, Quicken Loans and Hyatt, to name a few.

These companies know what good culture brings to their bottom line. They recognize effort and reward success, they remove roadblocks and provide assistance, and they don’t hover. These are all aspects of a positive culture that go beyond competitive benefits packages.

According to a survey done by Columbia Business School Duke’s Fuqua School of Business:

  • More than 90% said that culture was important at their firms.
  • 92% said they believed improving their firm’s corporate culture would improve the value of the company.
  • More than 50% said corporate culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value and growth rates.
  • Only 15% said their firm’s corporate culture was where it needed to be.

Employees talk, and other people listen.

Employees can have the loudest voice in your organization, not only when interacting with the customer but when it comes to the company’s public reputation. Glassdoor.com has become an outlet for employees (past or present) to sing praises or rip a company to shreds. Job seekers use Glassdoor frequently to gain insight to the culture beyond the HR representative or hiring managers they may be working with. Glassdoor is a window into the good, bad and ugly.

What do you get in return for putting employees first?

Richard Branson, owner of Virgin, has said multiple times that you get good retention, employees that will go above and beyond, and happy customers, which ultimately is invaluable to the success of an organization.

One Columbia University study showed that job turnover at companies with positive culture is just 13.9%, but at those with poor cultures it’s as much as 48.4%.

Studies on the cost of employee turnover have had wide ranging results. Some predict that every time a salaried employee is replaced, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.

If putting your employees first will bring you better customer service, a great public reputation and low turnover, what are you waiting for?