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Putting the Customer Second

When was the last time you heard a major company executive say that customers should come second?  Well, surprisingly Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic is quoted as saying that very thing.  However, the full quote goes, “Customers come second, employees first.”

We have all heard that employees are our most important resource, yet a Gallup poll from 2017 shows that only 15% of full-time employees polled from 142 countries were considered engaged in their jobs.  This is a staggering figure!  That means 85% of full-time employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged.  How can this be?

A recent article I read mentioned some interesting causes (Investing in Your Employees Is the Smartest Business Decision You Can Make by Parth Misra).  They are worth looking at to make sure that your company is not falling victim to them:

Poor Communications

Many companies do not properly communicate to all levels of the company.  Perhaps they assume everyone already knows what is going on and what they are supposed to do.  However, a much better approach is to have regularly set times where managers and their teams, and managers and each individual worker, can discuss current developments, training needs, squash unnecessary company gossip, etc. Manager’s need to do both – group and individual meetings – so that topics that involve everyone can be discussed as a group, as well as topics that are of a more personal nature can be addressed in private.  At these meetings, managers need to be willing to listen and encourage input from employees – they shouldn’t just lecture.

Poor Training

Related to poor communication is poor training.  It is easy to think that after an employee learns the basics that the manager can then ease off and let the employee “do their own thing.”  However, training is a career long commitment by a company.  Once the employee masters the basics, managers need to offer training opportunities to allow employees at all stages of development learn and grow.  Without constant growth, employees, like plants, will wither. Mastering new skills keeps us all sharp and pulls us outside of our comfort zones – engaging us once more in our work.  In addition, well trained employees are better equipment to identify and exploit the opportunities they encounter.


Don’t mistake training and employee development with micromanaging.  Employees need to have autonomy and power to make their own decisions (and possibly mistakes!).  If the employee is well trained, they will make good decisions and if they do make a mistake they will know how to fix it.  The most disheartening feeling for a worker is to think that they are always second-guessed and have no ability to add value to the company they work for.

Shortchanging Interns

Apparently this is a fairly common practice with start-ups.  Interns are asked to work long hours with no pay, often doing the mundane tasks that others don’t want to do.  They are given little or no incentives – either promises of stock options that never materialize or a future job that has no start date.  This practice is not only demoralizing to the intern, but all of your other employees see what the company is doing (as well as other potential employees and customers on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc.).  If your company does use interns, make clear what the benefits are to them.  Pay them, don’t offer stock options unless you have a set agreement & timeline for how they can receive them, and give them projects that have real learning opportunities (so even if you cannot hire them at the end of the internship, they will at least have some marketable skills to take with them).

These tips sound all well and good, but how do they really benefit the company?  Well, Gallop again provides some great data in this area.  Engaged employees establish better customer relationships. Gallop states that engaged employees have improved customer service that result in 20% higher sales than unengaged employees.  Investing in employees builds a solid relationship for your company in the marketplace.  Sites like Glassdoor, Comparably and ZipRecruiter make finding out about the culture and daily work life at a company very easy for employee prospects and customers alike.  Finally, engaged employees are the most loyal employees.  Not only do they work harder and better for you, but they stay with you through the years and recommend your company to other great employees and potential clients.

We all want to “put the customer first” in business – but consider the benefits of putting the customer second and what it can do for your business. 

By Ann Condon - Communication Manager, E.A. Dion, Inc.