Which Should Come First?

Did you hear the one about the employee who was about to be recognized for his 20th year of service, only for his supervisors to find that he hadn’t shown up for work in the last 6 years? If only this was the set-up for a joke and not reality!

Clearly that man’s employer should have created a culture that put “employees first,” right? Then again, I’m reminded of the Gallup research captured in the book Human Sigma: Managing the Employee-Customer Encounter which suggests that while there is a high correlation between employee engagement and customer engagement that relationship IS NOT CAUSAL. This means that there are situations where employees are highly engaged and customers are not (think of a workplace where employees feel like they are on a cruise but they forget to invite the customers along for the fun journey).

All of this begs the question which should come first from the perspective of strategic priorities – the employee experience or the customer experience? The correct answer for all of these “chicken vs. egg” scenarios is…BOTH!

We can call those who work with us “employees, associates, team members” or any other host of terms just like we can label customers with words like “consumers, users, patients, guests, or clients.” In the end, one term captures all of these groups – they are PEOPLE!

Whether those people interact with our brand from the “inside out” or the “outside in,” we should obsess about driving the best human experience possible. As such, I side-step the “employee” vs. “customer” debate by championing “people obsessed” priorities.

Here’s a short-list of what “People Obsessed” leaders do. They:

  • Define how they want PEOPLE to feel when engaged with their brand.
  • Select PEOPLE who can deliver the branded and emotional connection.
  • Inspire PEOPLE to achieve the transformational “purpose” of the brand.
  • Train PEOPLE to deliver “operational excellence” AND “emotional connection”.
  • Measure the engagement of all PEOPLE served (employees, customers, business partners, etc.).
  • Share stories of service excellence and of the PEOPLE who are “purposeful”.
  • Recognize and celebrate PEOPLE who demonstrate “otherness” (and they do that regularly – not just at 20 year annivesaries of employment).

One of the great “Yogiisms” of the late, great Yogi Berra was…when “you come to a fork in the road…take it.” Similiarly for me, when it comes to picking which people matter most – resist the urge to choose!

Listen, respect, inspire, and grow people both inside and outside of your organization and those same people will listen, respect, inspire and help your business grow as well!

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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