Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rethink: Employees come number one

The commonly held view that the customer comes first is worth a close look. Think about the last time you received less than satisfactory customer service. What caused it? Probably an employee! Either directly, bad manners and a "don't care" attitude, or by not addressing your needs - "sorry, I can't handle that order, you'll have to call another number".

Asking employees to focus on the customer when they may be unhappy with the company is asking for trouble.

How the “employee experience matters” at Starbucks because the company recognizes competitors can replicate the products Starbucks serves, but competitors can’t replicate the Starbucks people serving their products to customers. Its people, not products that make Starbucks Starbucks. (Sure, having a variety of tasty coffee beverages helps too but coffee comes second at Starbucks. Really, it does.)

Just as Howard said in the above quote, Starbucks seeks to connect first with employees and second with customers. WHY? Well, simply put … Starbucks knows employees that are treated well, will in turn, treat customers well. 
Many years ago an old school Starbucks partner shared an internal memo from Howard’s Il Giornale days (dated May 19, 1986) that outlined the early beginnings of Starbucks Employee First philosophy. In this vintage memo Howard writes …

“The attitudes of managers towards their people are of primary importance. Employees should be able to trust the motives and integrity of their supervisors. It is the responsibility of management to create a protective environment where Il Giornale values flourish. We believe our employees will develop a commitment to excellence when they are directly involved in the management of their areas of responsibility. The team effort maximizes results, minimizes costs and allows our employees to have authorship and integrity in their accomplishments as well as sharing in the financial rewards of their individual and team efforts.
We believe in hiring exceptional people who are willing to work for excellent results. In exchange, we are committed to the development of our good people by identifying, cultivating, training, rewarding and promoting those individuals who are committed to moving our company forward.
Together, we can establish the [Il Giornale] difference.”

I can imagine Beethoven asking his customers, hey, what do you think that next note should be? Beethoven didn't do that? Why is it that the managers think they the employees are machines rather than creatives.

"But I like to think that a lot of managers and executives trying to solve problems miss the forest for the trees by forgetting to look at their people -- not at how much more they can get from their people or how they can more effectively manage their people. I think they need to look a little more closely at what it's like for their people to come to work there every day.".........Gordon Bethune, Continental Airlines