Who’s More Important, Your Customers or Your Employees?

Many companies aim at always pleasing their customer, living by the motto “the customer is always right”. It makes sense, after all, your customers are the lifeline keeping your business afloat, but is it possible to put too much focus on the customer?

A recent New York Times article took a deeper look inside the walls of Amazon, which is known as one of the most innovative companies in the world. Amazon is a company synonymous with putting the customer’s needs and wants above all else, but according to the article, such high standards have induced a corrosive work environment. The article claims that working for Amazon is a dog eat dog world, where “workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high’”.

In order to survive, companies must be innovative and resilient. They must adapt and push forward. Amazon does a great job of that. But it is also equally important to keep your workforce happy and motivated. While everyone has different needs and some might respond positively to this type of workplace motivation, maintaining a leg up in the competition means adjusting your company’s strategy to suit the needs of your employees as well. Learn more about motivating your employees here.

A LinkedIn article by Justin Bariso titled Starbucks vs. Amazon: A Tale of Two (Very Different) Cultures compares and contrasts the workplace values of each of the two highly successful and innovative companies.

According to the article, “Two weeks [after the Times article was released], amid the stock market chaos that was causing distress to millions across the globe, Starbucks’s CEO, Howard Schultz, sent a memo to his entire company of 190,000 “partners” (Starbucks-speak for employees). It asked baristas to show special concern and sensitivity to their customers, and lavished praise on Starbucks workers for their recent accomplishments. The move was covered by multiple channels (including my take on Inc.), and received an extremely high amount of engagement–most of it positive.”

These hints give us insights into the very different ways these two companies treat their employees—or should I say partners.

Within the two “values” as stated on each companies’ websites, Bariso points out an interesting difference in how they two companies drive performance. Starbucks’ value No. 4 and it’s conclusion read as followed: “Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results… We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.”

While Amazon has quotes in from their list of values such as; “Insist on the Highest Standards: Leaders have relentlessly high standards–many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes…”

While there is no doubt that Amazon is a highly successful company, we must also realize the long-term sustainability of such a harsh workplace lifestyle. Starbucks serves as a natural comparison in terms of demonstrating innovativeness and commitment to the customer, but also serves up a healthy mix of taking care of the employee’s needs, too. The commitment and loyalty you show to your customers will be paralleled by their commitment and loyalty to you. Check out our related blog “Great Leaders Make Their Employees Feel Safe to Learn More.”

By taking the time to give your employees the training they need to ensure a job well-done, they will thrive even in times of adversity. Giving your employees the tools to prosper and be resilient will allow your company to not only survive but to prosper. Invest in your employees, and they’ll invest back in you.

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