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Customers Versus Employees: Who Is More Important?

These days it seems like more and more companies are adding “customer obsession” as part of their core values.  A concept that arguably was initially implemented by Amazon.

Customer Obsession
“Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

Source: Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

This is further emphasized by old adages like, “the customer is always right.” This concept is not necessarily new, but with more and more studies concluding that Customer Experience Drives Innovation for High-Performing Companies it is no wonder more and more companies are diverting to this way of thinking.  However, we must not forget the alternative:

Employee Job Satisfaction
“When you hire good people, and you provide good jobs and good wages and a career, good things are going to happen.”

Source: James Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco

So which is more important?  Happy customers or happy employees?  Truth is, they are both important and non-exclusive.  You don’t have to choose one while sacrificing the other.

The reality is most companies often forget to put the wellness of their employees on their list of priorities.  It is assumed nowadays that a job position is a gift to the employee contingent upon their level of hard work.  “If you work hard, you have a job!” However, it is worth noting that when you have job satisfaction, hard work is no longer an “obligation” …it becomes a direct result of working happily.  (It is so much easier to do your job when you love it, right?!)  It has been proven in studies time and time again. 

“We have found that [job satisfaction can] act as motivational stimuli for employees. With their proper use, management can overcome the desired behavior from its employees, thus building goals in the long run and pursuing the vision of the company.”

Source: “The Importance of Employee Satisfaction in the Transportation and Logistics Service Industry” by Eneja Sila & Klemen Sirok (June 2018)

These days, a gift of a job is not something to take for granted and job satisfaction is an abstract state of mind.  At the same time, it is known that job performance directly correlates with job satisfaction and happy employees bring in happy customers.  So, while customer satisfaction is important, it should never be obtained by sacrificing job satisfaction for the employees. The logistics industry has one of the highest turnover rates with a 73% driver turnover rate at small carriers and 94% driver turnover rate at large carriers with one of the primary reasons attributed to low job satisfaction. It is important to keep in mind that a healthy balance is hard to juggle but, ideal to save one of the world’s largest industries.

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