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It’s 2018, so the importance of company culture should come as no shock. But treating employees well doesn't just build a healthy, functioning company: It creates a culture of superior service for customers.
Look at Richard Branson as a role model. He operates Virgin Airlines with the motto “Look after your staff, and the rest will follow.” Starbucks follows the same path, and in January, the company announced it would use some of its incoming tax savings to increase pay and benefits for its workers.
These companies choose to invest in their employees in the hopes that happy workers will lead to happier customers.
Why do clients and customers care? It’s simple: Account managers and service representatives who are treated, motivated and compensated well are inclined to deliver better service than their dissatisfied counterparts. Prioritizing company culture amounts to prioritizing customer care.
Better culture, better service
At Elite SEM, four team is so confident in our culture that we have a brand promise stemming from it. If we switch an account manager, his or her client actually has the option to not pay us if the next account manager isn’t equal to or better than the previous contact.
It’s a bold promise, certainly, but we know our employees are satisfied, and as a National Business Research Institute study has suggested, satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers. Focusing on building great lives for great people has helped our agency grow to more than 200 people, something that wouldn’t have happened without client satisfaction.
We’re not the only ones who have realized the benefits of prioritizing the team. The global communications firm West Corporation boasts a “Customer Experience Lifecycle Management Maturity Model,” which found that training stable teams across the entire company eliminates simple mistakes, gives employees a sense of ownership, leads to better products and improves the value customers see.
Building a transparent, happy team
A stable team results in a stable company, with renewed business and more client referrals. Those factors can have major positive effects on a business. So, whether your company responds promptly on social media to a client issue — as American Express, for instance, does on Twitter — or remembers longtime clients’ life milestones, you should be building a team that clients trust to take care of them. Here’s how to start:
1. Consider no question too big or too small. Seek employees’ opinions on high- and low-level matters. Have one-on-ones with every employee; everyone has a different employment history and valuable insights to offer. In addition to company town-hall meetings twice a year and live Q&As to keep every employee up-to-date, our team also uses tools like TINYpulse and CultureIQ to stay current on each employee’s opinions. The most important part of this constant feedback cycle, however, is acting on it.
JT Marino, co-founder of Tuft & Needle, has turned one-on-ones and employee feedback into a way of life. It’s not coincidental that his company has taken the coveted No. 1 spot on lists touting top company cultures. Marino describes Tuft & Needle as “culturally flat,” and he insists on giving every employee the chance to be heard.
Last year, in just two months, he conducted 50 one-on-ones to identify and fix common pain points across the company. Marino cites that semi-marathon as “one of the most valuable things I’ve done in my time at the company.”
2. Increase retention with tailored perks. An employee once suggested that our company help pay off student debt. Rather than blowing off the suggestion, I thanked the employee for bringing up the topic and laid out our benefits road map — which held potential for student debt assistance once the company gained another 100 employees.
Every company should offer certain standard benefits. But whenever possible, tailor perks and benefits to the employees themselves. Employees are in favor of this type of benefits shift, it turns out. MetLife found in a 2016 benefits study that 70 percent of employees polled would be more loyal to their employers if offered customized benefits.
3. Treat employees like owners. The employees who care the most feel invested. All of our employees own equity in our company, so they all act like “intrapreneurs,” or employees who think like entrepreneurs within the company. Giving employees actual ownership over the company encourages them to deliver great work to clients. This ownership also gives employees the freedom to cultivate the working lifestyle that suits them best, priming them for positive client interactions.
In its 2017 Mind the Workplacemental health survey, Mental Health America found that in organizations deemed mentally healthy, 75 percent of employees surveyed cited relaxed workplaces with an open-door policy, 69 percent reported professional development opportunities and 52 percent said they had some type of flexible work offering.
It’s time for every business leader to recognize that company culture isn’t just an HR issue anymore. Culture affects the work that a company's employees produce, the services they deliver to their customers and the company's overall client relationships.
Prioritizing employees boils down to prioritizing customers. Start with these three steps to forge a company culture that keeps your clients coming back.