Blog How to manage the employee-customer relationship

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How to manage the employee-customer relationship

The oldest and most used cliché in business is probably the phrase “the customer is always right.” You hear it from your boss when you start out in the service, retail or grocery industry as a teenager and again when you graduate college and begin your career. You’re expected to retain that motto and teach it to your employees when you reach a position of power. There is definitely some truth to that, but ultimately it isn’t always so black and white.

Like anything in business, there is a significant amount of gray area, and you must not only understand that, but ensure your employees are able to manage it. Your best customer service workers will think for themselves and act based on the situation, which helps produce the best possible results.

This idea was discussed in a recent Customer Think article titled “Customer Before Employee, Employee Over Customer.” Adam Toporek, the article’s author, says there is a certain way to manage this relationship so that both sides are treated fairly and are satisfied after each interaction. This article does not suggest that employees should be valued over the customer. In fact, it stresses the importance of a customer-first model. However, valuing employees and prioritizing their needs as part of your customer service strategy will likely produce the best results.

“An employee-centric culture should be but a subset of a larger customer-centric culture,” Toporek writes. “If the customer is not your first priority, how can you ever expect the customer to be your team’s first priority? It seems like any organization that does not have the customer as its primary focus has put the cart way ahead of the horse.”

He goes on to explain that while all companies should operate under the customer-first model, it’s the manager’s job to instill in each of their employees the confidence to take control of the relationship if need be. He listed a few examples of where the employee has to be put over the customer, including:

  • When the customer has crossed the line into abusive behavior
  • When the employee is right and being right or wrong has significance
  • When the customer is simply unreasonable and continues to be overly difficult to work with.

These are only a few examples, but they show that customer service reps shouldn’t allow themselves to be treated unfairly simply because the customer is always right. This is important because it not only makes the customer service rep feel better, it helps push the interaction in a direction that benefits all sides.

Working with a call center management provider that understands this will help companies yield stronger results. This comes from working with quality customer service representatives who are able to add a humanistic element to each interaction, which can help everyone involved.

A customer service call center should operate under the notion that the customer comes first, but the customer service reps who follow that precept understand why and are able to use that knowledge to make appropriate decisions on the call when they are needed. They understand their role in the relationship and that helps them provide the best possible service to their customers.