It’s a common saying: the customer is always right.
It’s not hard to see why this expression became popular. Saying the customer is always right seems to emphasize the high standards of any company that would follow this motto.
Contradicting this idea seems to imply that businesses should focus on themselves over those they are supposed to be serving.
But some would argue that any company making it a habit to listen to its customers over its employees has misplaced its priorities:
Of course your customers are important. Your product or service ought to be one that benefits the people who trust you enough to give you their money.
But recognize that satisfied and reliable employees will work that much harder to serve the customers.
If you’ve done your due diligence during the hiring process, then you should have a competent and trustworthy staff.
If you do not, you might re-evaluate how you go about assessing and selecting potential hires.
Essential: Value Your Employees
But simply hiring the right people isn’t enough. You need to be able to trust them, yes, but investing in them is important as well.
If you cultivate your employees, making them feel valued and helping them do their jobs better, you will by default maximize their productivity.
If you undermine your employees, make it obvious you don’t trust them, and always listen to the customer’s word over theirs, you will demoralize your staff.
I know of a lady who had years of experience working retail at a particular shop. She noticed that people were frequently buying items and bringing them back broken.
They would get their money back for the item, but still leave with their original purchases. They were exploiting the store’s return policy and getting the merchandise for free, albeit slightly damaged.
After observing this situation for some time, the associate finally refused to accept a return from one such customer.
Instead of even taking time to hear her side of the story before he made a decision, her boss dismissed her concerns right in front of the customer.
He followed “the customer is always right” motto to his own loss, both in merchandise and in a trustworthy employee. After that, the associate left the company.
How you show your employees you value them and keep them from leaving is limited only by your creativity.
We’ve actually already covered one way you can do so: trusting them. Here are three more suggestions for how to demonstrate that you value your employees.
1. Build Time for “Non-Work” into the Workweek
One of the strengths of American culture is valuing hard work. A corresponding weakness is that Americans tend to be bad at resting well.
It is very easy for us to work ourselves into the ground, a practice that has harmful results for both our health and our personal lives.
Entrepreneur contributor Daniel Wesley reports that working too many hours at the office actually increases people’s risk of heart disease.
While individuals are primarily responsible for their own care, there are ways that as an employer you can encourage positive habits in those under your leadership.
One way you might do so is by setting aside a short period of time every week when you and your employees can relax and do activities not directly related to work.
I used to work at a nonprofit. During the last hour of the day on Friday, we would all stop what we were doing, have some refreshments, and participate in a thought-provoking discussion.
This hour was a welcome break from the daily routine, and I always appreciated it.
2. Help Them Establish Healthy Eating Habits
Another habit you could encourage is healthy eating. The Harvard Business Review observes that what we eat directly impacts how productive we are.
It’s common knowledge that eating fatty, unhealthy food makes people sluggish. A lack of energy is just one of the many negative side effects that arise from consuming unwholesome foods.
But while it is easy to know this, many of us struggle to eat well—particularly given how busy we are.
I always get hungry between breakfast and lunch, as well as during the midafternoon. It helps me to have healthy finger foods available during those times.
Try to make healthy snacking easier than unhealthy snacking by providing your employees with healthy tasty snacks in the workplace.
The ROI for providing snacks might not be immediately apparent to you. But because workers with poor eating habits become less efficient and productive, you’re still making an investment in your company.
If you don’t have the budget to purchase snacks for your workers, see if you can at least educate them regarding foods that are both convenient and good for them.
Another option is encouraging the employees themselves to take turns bringing healthy snacks into work.
3. Be Thoughtful and Sincere
It’s important to communicate to your employees that you value them and care about developing them. This advice might seem obvious.
But as I mentioned earlier, toxic work environments occur far too often. A positive office culture is not easy to achieve, even if it is easy to describe.
Make sure that giving sincere, positive, and constructive feedback is one of your priorities. Take time to give your employees thorough and honest evaluations, and make sure that you’re the one who communicates the feedback to them.
A friend of mine recently had a work review. The woman who presented the results to her was someone with whom she almost never interacted and who was unfamiliar with the workings of her office.
This was a poor move on the company’s part. The person communicating the results lacked credibility to speak into my friend’s performance, however accurate the feedback might have been.
Cultivate Your Assets
Managing people is difficult. My hat is off to anyone who is in the position of doing so. But as you navigate the challenges of running a business, remember that your employees are one of your most important assets.
Cultivating them can only benefit your clients and your company as a whole.
Originally published on Mar 16, 2017; updated 4/18/21 to improve SEO, remove 2 redirected links, improve formatting and add the video and infographic.
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