People matter now more than ever.

The other day, I heard about a guy who works for a company who yell at him for caring too much about customers. Apparently it detracts too much from the bottom line and he is actively DISCOURAGED from providing exceptional service.

These days, we all hear about companies cutting costs through mass redundancies. I’ve heard of several people who have spent weeks or even months waiting anxiously to find out whether their job will still exist tomorrow. Others arrive at a meeting one day to find it’s simply gone.

It occured to me that these are not the type of stories we should be hearing at the moment.

I’m not sure what kind of bubble people have been living in. It was less than 30 years ago that NZ faced these sort of woes and yet, in the past few years people have been acting like the economy is infallible. Now the money is drying up, they are making dumb, short term decisions in a desperate attempt to save money.

Yes there is a recession on and yes, we’ve all been stupid with our money in the past few years. But people who panic now are forgetting that all a business is at the end of the day is the people who work in it and the people who buy from it.

If you don’t have customers, you don’t have revenue. It’s as simple as that. Far from trying to stop your employees make your customers super happy, you should be encouraging it!

At the same time, if you don’t treat your staff like they are valued members of the company, and involve them in the cost cutting techniques (i.e reducing hours and therefore redundancies), then you can’t expect them to go the extra mile for you while things are tough.

I may be proven wrong, but I still believe that the companies who are struggling the most at the moment, are those who have lost touch with their markets and employees, and the good times enabled them to cover it up. Yes it’s time for cost cutting, but you should be addressing the fundamentals of your business rather than freaking out.

9 thoughts on “People matter now more than ever.”

  1. Up to a point. Your service level is part of your offer and your brand. But sometimes you have to rein people in, and make it clear that the customer gets what they pay for and doesn’t get what they won’t pay for. There are numerous examples (particularly in various professional and technical services firms) of routine overdelivery and/or freebies/unbilled work killing the business. Good times may have hidden the cost of that overdelivery, and now in tougher times it has to be dealt with. Nothwithstanding the need to change, it still needs to be managed carefully, for everyone’s (customers/staff/shareholders) sake.

  2. I have to agree with Jim, a business isn’t a charity and the employee you mention could actually be damaging the business and its ability to serve its customers and employees… rather than helping it. Balance is important.

  3. Hmm. I see both your points, but think that services businesses have a reputation for being only about the money. Yes excessive extras hurt the business, but a little extra touch goes a long way to making a business stand out from a crowd… Which means more future business.

    There is a balance, but I think it’s probably hard enough to find great service staff and it’s probably best to initially assume that more effort is a good thing, not a bad thing.

  4. @Jim and Johnny-johnny: Exceptional service doesn’t mean giving out freebies. We operate a fee-based service, and as part of that offer a free helpdesk. We can provide exceptional service on our helpdesk, and we encourage our customers to call us use it as much as they need. It helps us too, as fewer problems people have up front means fewer messes we have to sort out later.

    Having the right business model helps. No-one feels like the clock is ticking – our customers get the answers they need and our consultants aren’t under pressure to get through the calls as quickly as possible.

  5. Interesting thread going on here. I think the key to surviving as a business is offering exceptional value to your customers. That may include offering exceptional customer service, but you need to be wary of spending too much time supporting the customers that require the most support. Often these are the least profitable customers.

    I still think the concepts in The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch are some of the best I have come across. Identifying the 20% of customers that provide 80% of your revenue, focusing on them, and trying to add more like them, will serve you better than spending excessive time supporting the other 80%. That is not to say you should under deliver to those customers, but equally they are not the ones to over deliver on.

  6. I think we’re all in agreement. Great service IS a good thing, in ways that are relevant to your market offer. But be careful that great service doesn’t turn into wrong/uneconomic overdelivery on a regular basis. That means there’s something wrong with your business model or modus operandi.

  7. I agree with your agreement Jim.

    My point was that you don’t have to automatically jump tot the conclusion that great service = costs too much.

    EVEN IF someone does the odd half hour extra, the benefits of leaving a happy customer who will spread the good word often way outweigh any costs. It just seems counter intuitive to me to demand that your employees DON’T treat customers well (I would have thought most places would have a hard enough time tying ot achieve the opposite!)

  8. Isn’t it all about setting standards and managing adherence to them?

    If the standard:revenue ratio is out of whack the company goes under either through excessive costs or lack of customers. Getting the ratio right for YOUR business and its target market is the heart of a good business model, whether the business sells services of goods.

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