The True Power of Treating Employees Right? Customers Will Benefit, Too

“The customer’s always right” vs. “Employees first” – it’s the chicken or egg battle for the business world.

No company exists without customers. And without engaged, enthusiastic, empowered employees to make those customers happy, no company can last long.

It’s a delicate balance that only the best organizations get right 99 percent of the time.

Those organizations in the service industry likely get it right more often than those in other industries. They have to. So many more of their employees are front-and-center, interacting with customers face-to-face regularly.

“You are the heart of our company”

What does that look like?

A client of ours, InterContinental Hotels Group, is an excellent example. IHG did us the honor of presenting at a recent internal conference, sharing with us some of their secrets for success. Of course, creating a powerful culture of recognition and appreciation is one of them. Another is carrying the mission of the company – “Great hotels guests love” – through every interaction, internally and externally.

For example, many hotels look at the property in two ways – the front of the house, where guests are (the lobby, guest rooms, etc.), and the back of the house (kitchens, storage areas, employee break rooms, etc.). At IHG, the back of the house is referred to as “the heart of the house.”

I love that. In just that simple switch in terminology, IHG communicates to all of its employees “you are the heart of our company.”

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The power of treating employees right

How does that play out in guest experience? Very profoundly, indeed.

Check out this story of a guest’s experience at the InterContinental Boston. Just this one snippet is very telling:

Imagine that; someone going out of their way to make sure I left happy and satisfied with their service. WOW- almost unheard of these days!”

That’s the power of “The heart of the house” – empowering every employee to do what they know is right for the guest, to go the extra step to deliver a great hotel and ensure every guest loves the experience.

It is possible to overcome the chicken-or-egg battle in business – put your employees first so they can make the right decisions on behalf of every customer.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.