Thursday, February 28, 2008

The customer is always first, right? ... Think again.

Today I came across a great video clip from a training panel discussion at Fortune’s Global Forum that attacks this question with a fantastic new idea – put the employee first.

The moderator began the discussion with a question employers constantly struggle with – “Why invest in training people when you know that a lot of them are going to leave you pretty soon?”

One panelist, Anand Pillai, answered the question that turns “the customer always comes first” belief flat on its head – the employee is number one. Pillai, Vice President & Global Head of Talent Transformation & Intrapreneurship, acknowledged the fear that you may train an employee who will leave, but he believes the more important question is – “What will you do if you don’t train them and they stay back?” The best way to retain a person is to keep on training them, he said.

Training employees keeps them constantly engaged. “An engaged employee is a happy employee. A happy employee will lead to happy customers,” Pillai said. Worry less about trying to attain a customer satisfaction goal and more about an employee satisfaction goal. With happy employees come happy customers.

Pillai shared a very “zen” concept seen from the eyes of a happy employee – “Having happy customers is not an activity that I do, it is just being what I am.” Meeting customer satisfaction will come when you have happy employees who are willing to go beyond the call of duty.

In what ways does your company struggle with the fear that once an employee is well trained, he or she will then find a new job?

And, what does your company do to try and put the employee first?

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