Customers Come First! (Or do they?)

Recently I was at an event where a panelist declared the age of the customer to be “over,” favouring an employee-centric culture, because, “if your employees are happy, your customers will be happy.” It felt like a classic chicken and egg scenario: what comes first, your employees or your customers?

Sure, people work with people, and if customers are interacting with happy employees they probably have a better experience. But what if you’re a product company? What if your employees don’t interact all that much with your customers? Does employee happiness and entitlement automatically lead to exemplary service? Certainly, when current events show a major airline physically injuring passengers who have legitimately purchased the airline’s product, it doesn’t bode well for the age of customer service! But surely such displays of blatant customer injury and humiliation don’t make for happy employees either.

How can you ensure both happy employees and happy customers?

The challenge and the opportunity is not only in aligning your employee and customer engagement strategies, but doing so around the values that make your company tick. If your business strategies are not aligned with your core values you’ll start to see cracks in the “happy” metric from all sides. It helps if you have a good sense of whether your employees and your customers actually are happy. Are you regularly measuring customer satisfaction and employee engagement—typical proxies for happiness in these two key audiences? If not, you should be!

Successful, values led organizations monitor how their core values affect and engage customers and employees.

If you’re sending a message to customers that isn’t aligned with the reality your employees’ experience, it creates a dissonance that will likely involve a drop in your employee “happy” quotient that may ultimately cost you in employee retention. If your employees are the happiest people around, but your customers are looking elsewhere because your value for ‘fun’ or ‘learning’ doesn’t translate to their experience, that’s also a gap that doesn’t serve your organization. Checking in with customers and employees about how they experience those values when interacting with you provides valuable feedback that can help ensure their perceptions don’t trump your intentions.

Don’t just name values and pretend you’re done! Define the principles and behaviours that anchor them in your culture and brand.

At Junxion we e challenge our clients to get specific about the successful manifestation of values. Beyond simply naming values, we work with our clients to define the principles that underpin them, and to identify the objective, trainable, coachable actions, behaviours and attitudes they can measure to ensure authentic expression of those values across the organization and through time. Junxion’s integrated approach to strategy, planning, branding, and communications holds values as central: How organizations engage one another (values) is as important as what they do (mission, vision and activities—or plans), and how they engage stakeholders’ support (positioning and narrative, or brand). Ultimately, from the organizational point of view, it’s not enough to make one group happy, and trust that the next group will be happy as a result. Sound strategy considers everyone’s happiness.


Katja Macura is a Senior Consultant with Junxion and has extensive experience supporting leaders and entrepreneurs as they develop values-driven projects, organizations, and brands.