“Treat your employees right” is more than just ‘feel-good’ rhetoric


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The world of CX is covered in platitudes and clichés. I don’t say that to denigrate it as a field of study and practice (quite the opposite), but rather just to acknowledge it so as to better combat empty words in favor of making actual impacts. Sometimes clichés are clichés because they’re right.

One of those sayings that make the rounds all the time is, “if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your Customers.” There are variations but in the end the gist is that not only is good employee engagement vital to good CX, some even seem to think it’s the key; perhaps even that that’s all it takes. Oversimplifying the concept, however, is a bad idea (isn’t it always?).

Taking good care of your employees is a good idea all the time. High employee engagement leads to less turn-over which saves money and even perpetuates itself: Happy employees make each other happier which in turn keeps everybody on the same page. You spend less time recruiting, less money paying out severances, less time having to onboard new people, and when everybody loves you (and that word gets out), you have your pick of the best possible employees when you do need to expand and hire. Call it one of those ‘virtuous cycles.’  That broader point is valid, but I think there’s an even more specific reason as to why good employee engagement is good for CX, and that reason helps drive what good employee engagement looks like, too.

When I speak with business leaders about their organizations’ cultures, there are some obvious things like I just mentioned that are top of mind. All the happy talk about happy employees will make your HR managers and Chief People Officers hearts sing of course. And all that’s true. But the impact it has on CX is more acute and isn’t as simple as having a great work culture. In fact, even if you didn’t have tremendously great employee engagement in general, you could still work on building a culture that enhances your CX if you do it right. (I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this if you don’t have good employee engagement…besides being good for all those reasons listed above, an overall healthy positive culture among your employees enhances the probability of success in driving a good Customer-centric culture as well.) It’d be noteworthy that a dedication to CX actually helped drive you toward a better EX.

You see, it’s simply more efficient to build out a culture that enables and empowers your employees to take care of your Customers. There are reasons of the heart to do it: Employees genuinely will feel more engaged if you have proper (and properly-working) tools for them to leverage. And they’ll also feel more engaged if you give them the authority to use the tools (rather than requiring an escalation for every scenario). Again, that’ll make your HR team like you a lot!

But even a cold-hearted manager should be able to appreciate the efficiencies realized from enabling and empowering your team members. You see, it’s just good business sense even if you don’t want to get into the whole hearts-and-minds discussion. Because when your team members are enabled because your tools work better (i.e., they’re easier for your employees to use; and even better yet, if your Customers can help themselves) it takes fewer resources and less time. Your employees are more efficient and so can help more Customers who’ll have to wait shorter times for help—if they need help at all. And the same goes for empowerment: When your front-line employees can solve issues for your Customers, the issues are solved faster (hello, improved CX!) and using fewer resources. It’s a win-win situation for both your organization, which will use fewer resources; and for your Customers, who’ll expend less effort and get faster resolution.

If you look at it this way, you realize that, instead of (in addition to?) good Employee Engagement being a nice-to-have, it’s actually an efficiency initiative! Forget how happy people are…your ship will run smoother if you’re enabling and empowering your teams.

When you hear the cliché about Treating Your Employees Well So They’ll Treat Your Customers Well, keep in mind that it’s not just empty words: It really works.

(Originally Published 20200728)
– LtCol Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB, CSM
– Principal, Zeisler Consulting

Nicholas Zeisler, CCXP, LSSBB
I’m a Customer Experience executive, certified Process Improvement professional, Agile Scrum Master, dynamic educator, change management strategist, and in-demand business and leadership coach. I've worked from the inside and from the outside; in organizations large and small; public sector and private; from oil and gas to technology to non-profit (with lots in between too). I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen it all.


  1. I agree. Treating employees right is good for business. But you can treat hired hands right or treat trusted partners right. The latter is much better.
    Our research with Harvard Business School shows that companies that move from treating employees like hired hands to trusted partners, roughly double their profit growth versus their peers. Yes, I did say double. Is it so hard to believe? Look at Southwest Airlines, Canlis Restaurant or Adams Beasley Remodeling. All have trusted partners and all radically outperform their competitors, including in a pandemic. If you would like to learn more about the HBS benchmarking research, just contact our research associate, Iuliana Mogosanu at [email protected] . These Forbes and Harvard Business Review articles provide more background: https://hbr.org/2018/01/more-than-a-paycheck http://www.forbes.com/sites/fotschcase/2016/05/31/engage-your-employees-in-making-money/


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