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Company Culture > Customer Service

Let’s play a little game, shall we?

It’s called “Good Boss, Bad Boss.”

Good Boss: Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

Not only good because he spearheads a company that sells awesome shoes and gives everyone free shipping, but because he’s created an incredible company culture that revolves around keeping his employees happy and excited about their jobs. I recently read an article about the culture Hsieh’s cultivated. Not only does the company encourage transparency and allow every single employee to talk to the media or anyone who asks, but call-center employees are also empowered to be themselves as they take care of customers. Personality and authenticity alone can wow customers.

On the other hand…

Bad Boss: William Ernst, owner of a chain of convenience stores called QC Mart.

You may have heard about this already, but Ernst is the Iowa “boss from hell” who pitted his employees against each other by offering a $10 prize for the person who could guess who’d be fired next. REALLY. He actually went out of his way to accentuate the negative aspects of his employees and totally ignored what they were doing well. You have to work pretty hard to create such an antagonistic work environment. Enough said.

Playing this game really shows that how you treat your employees is far more important than some might think. It’s crucial, actually. Forward-facing employees — customer service reps, call center employees, servers, bartenders, front-desk folks — are under a lot of pressure from your customers as it is. To take flak from both sides, to feel unsupported by the person who hired them and entrusted them to do a great job? That’s just a recipe for disaster.

I heard once about a restaurant manager who put his staff before the customer. When a customer complained, he would help them out and treat them with respect, but in the end, he always backed his staff member. And because his wait staff knew he had their backs, they were more loyal to him.

Contrary to the popular saying, the customer isn’t always right. The customer is always the customer, yes, but sometimes they’re also rude. Sometimes they’re blowing things way out of proportion. Sometimes they’re flat-out wrong. Let’s face it: Even if the customer is right, your employee is the one whose loyalty you really need. In the game of “Good Boss, Bad Boss,” it really pays to be the former.

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