Engagement Marketing

Who’s on First: Customers or Employees?

In his June 24, 2008 article “If the customer comes first, where does that leave employees?”, Steve Crescenzo shares a story about a company whose approach is “Customers First, Employees Last.” [Updated note: access to Steve’s article is for Select Members. Ragan offers both free and select membership options on It also offers My Ragan, a free social network for corporate communicators.]

This ‘customers first-employees last’ approach may not be what management intended, but it became the reality of the corporate culture as experienced by employees.

What’s especially disturbing is that an internal communications professional within the company tried to bring the situation about employee frustration to management’s attention – specifically in a proposed article entitled “Does ‘Customers First’ Mean Employees Last?” for an online employee publication. But management nixed the idea; they didn’t want to hear it and/or didn’t want to deal with it.

Unfortunately, the company described here isn’t unique. There are too many firms with customer problems – evident through constant complaints and customer churn – where the solution is to come down hard and put pressure on employees without actually engaging them to assist with solutions. (Why bother asking the employees who have daily interaction with the customers? If they were so smart, they’d be in management instead of on the front-lines!)

Hint to managers who think this way: customer dissatisfaction doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Besides worrying about customer retention, take a look at your employee retention.

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