Attention: The Customer Is Not Always "King"

That’s right, because who are the people you’re paying to serve those customers in the first place?

Photo by FotoCuisinette/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by FotoCuisinette/iStock / Getty Images

Far, far too many times, when I used to work at Taco Bell a few years ago, had I experienced the following.

I get to work early and on time, as most of my colleagues do. I clock in and immediately begin discerning what it is I have to accomplish for that day. I greet each coworker I pass; some respond, and some mumble something under their breath and continue on with their routine.

Then, as I’m working, say, the cash register, the manager sulks in. He’s a few minutes late. When he walks up next to me and clocks in, I ask him how he’s doing, and he responds, “I’m here,” before taking off his jacket and proceeding to the back.

A couple of hours later, a customer walks up to the front counter and asks to see a manager. I say, “Absolutely, may I ask for what?” and he informs me that not only was his order incorrect for the third time in a row, but that it was now cold and disgusting. The manager approaches the counter and rectifies the issue. But what’s really happening here?

Said disgruntled customer is now going to go home to his family and tell them about his bad experience at our location, who will then inform their friends and family, and their friends and family, and so on. Essentially, the business is losing customers it didn’t even know it had.

Today, “nine out of ten companies will respond to [unhappy customers]” first before acknowledging customers who pledge to have had a great experience, writes Erik Qualman in his book Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. “Most companies don’t fire employees for not responding to or for not going above and beyond their duty for a happy customer. But they do fire employees who don’t respond to an unhappy customer.”

But what could be said about unhappy customers in the first place? Why do they really exist? Is it because of an unsatisfying product? Or is it tied more directly with your employees? In most cases, the answer is the latter.

“What a miserable existence to have a job where your only incentive is to not get fired,” writes Qualman, and he’s absolutely right. Employees need drive, motivation, dedication, and perseverance to do their job well and ultimately make the customers they’re serving happy and content with your business. In the end, employees are your most valuable resource.

And if your most valuable resource is treated poorly, unfairly, and without motivation to get the job done, then what do you really have? A bunch of people just trying to get by, which can result in significant losses in profit, personnel, and progress. “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients,” says the famous Richard Branson.

Therefore, taking the time to acknowledge customers who acknowledge your success will not only make you feel better, but will make your employees feel involved, praised, and like their hard work was not wasted on just getting by. According to Qualman, it’s positive customer experiences and word of mouth that help brands grow, not just significant profit margins.