“The Customer Is Always Right”
It’s an old adage that we tend to affix to small business and retail situations, but in a corporate setting it can get pretty abstract. In fact, we make ‘customers’ more abstract by calling them clients or partners. But customers they are. And they are always right.
The problem comes when these abstract entities that really pay the bills are not happy. Their dissatisfaction goes to the top of the management food chain and then is fixed (hopefully) internally.
But suppose your employees or you worked not for the boss, but for their employees? And suppose that moved from being not just an adage but actually part of the employee evaluation? It’s an interesting concept that is more fully fleshed out here:
The concept is interesting because it turns on its head the typically management structure and puts performance reviews more in the hands of the people who matter most.
One problem that we see with this is that some employees actually work too much for their clients. In some businesses, a client can be over served, putting in danger the resources of a company to serve other customers. This may be taken care of by ensuring that evaluations take this into account in some way. The other barrier is actually in employees themselves who may, in fact, not want to actually be responsible for customer satisfaction:
It is also worth noting that even when managers want to give employees more freedom and employees want to take more ownership for meeting the needs of the customers, the current system gets in the way. At the end of the day the manager is held accountable for telling their teams what to do, measuring performance and rewarding them by their managers. Taken together these are powerful drivers that reinforce the command-and-control leadership style.
In any case, it’s an interesting framework worth looking into further. The customer may always be right, but that does no good if employees are not empowered and motivated to answer their direct needs.