Your employer is your customer
I was recently in a restaurant and couldn’t help but overhear a customer arguing with the host as he was paying his bill. I don’t know what the problem was and I don’t know who was at fault. I did hear something to the effect of: “How hard is it to run a business? Don’t you know anything?” All this in a demanding and condescending tone. I wish I could tell you I told the customer to piss off, but I was tired, the waiter wasn’t a young coed, and my parole officer had just told me I couldn’t get into any more fights. I left the place disgusted while the blowhard was still unloading.
I am not sure what went wrong, but this was not an expensive white tablecloth place. This was Diner Americana, where you can order pancakes all day long, the coffee is $1.50 and the special of the day is listed on a chalkboard. In other words, nothing in this place was worth getting fired up about.
I immediately had two thoughts:
- “The one complaining the loudest is usually the one doing the least to solve the problem”.
- I was really glad I didn’t work with this guy (the complaining customer). I am guilty on the profiling charge but I got the distinct feeling that this was a guy that treated his employer and co-workers with the same attitude that he was treating this waiter/host.
Bringing this back to the world of HR, as someone who sees the workplace holistically, my observation is that employees fall into two general buckets. This may get confusing so bear with, and try to keep up.
1. Some employees look at their manager and their employer as their customer and treat them as such. They take on the attitude that their customer is always right, even when they might not be. These employees look to solve their customer’s problems and make sure the customer experience is a positive one. These folks are generally very successful.
2. Some employees see themselves as the customer. This employee expects that their manager and their employer should deliver excellent customer service to them as an employee, and the company and the manager are there to their individual success. Like most customers, they want more for less. More benefits, more pay, more attention. Per the opening paragraph, the one screaming the loudest is usually the one helping the least. Individual wins may come occasionally, but long-term success usually eludes these employees.
Which brings me to my point:
Too many employees expect the company to treat them like a VIP customer. As an employee of the company, I, me, HRNasty, am the one that delivers the service and sends out the invoice (time card). The employer is my customer and the employer pays my invoice (paycheck). I need to keep my customer happy.
In the employer/employee relationship, I consider the company and my manager to be MY customer. As the employee, I am the equivalent of a vendor selling a service. The company I work for is the one paying for my service. Make no mistake, as the employee, I am not the customer. The customer is the manager I report to. The customer is the company I provide services for.
Yes, we would all like to think that the company is here for us individually as the employee, but at the end of the day, my employer/manager are paying for my services. As much as I would like to think that the company is here for me on a day-to-day basis, it is not. As the employee, I am here for the company and I need to realize that I am replaceable. Last time I checked, the company was still running when I went on vacation.
Delusions of grandeur stem from a couple of places. Employment laws, regulations, and unions are in place to protect the employee. As an employee, you shouldn’t be fooled because the government established the following to protect you:
- Minimum wages and required lunch breaks
- Protected classes and Leave of Absence regulations
- Employment laws for every demographic and size of business
The other concept that generates a self-centered mindset is the emphasis on perks and benefits in the recruiting process. Do not be fooled. The cake is a lie. Just because they recruited you with the following doesn’t mean anything.
- Uniforms and Benefit plans
- Company Car, Parking spots or subsidized transportation
- Company culture filled with the occasional jeans day, pool tables and company picnics
Between the two above listed categories, I completely understand where an employee of the company can get turned around.
The company/employer tries to provide a great working environment. This attracts and retains employees. But make no mistake, the employee holds the role of the vendor. As an employee, it is me who should be trying to provide extra value and amazing service. I should be trying to impress the person that is paying for my services. If I want to raise my prices (increase my salary) I need to deliver more than my competition and provide MORE value than I was the year before.
When we interviewed with the company as a candidate, we treated the company with kid gloves and made sure we followed common courtesy and protocol. We tried to wow the company with a great attitude and attention to the details. This included everything from the dress code, to thank you letters, to study up on what was important to the company and the manager. The first couple of weeks and months, we were conscious of how our words and actions are interpreted. This is a mentality that shows we are treating our employer as the customer.
Those first few months of new employment we worried about our customer, we thought about our customer and when the customer made a move (let’s say they picked Suzy new hire for a project over us), we analyzed that move, agonized over that move, and worried about that move. This is the way a vendor treats a customer. They worry about losing accounts.
At some point in time, for some employees, there is an emotional shift. This employee moves from the mentality of the proud service provider to bitter customer where nothing the employer can do is right and the customer is never wrong. There is nothing worse than a bitter employee. The employer doesn’t care for them because it isn’t productive and after all, who wants to a pay for a crappy attitude? Co-workers don’t like them and the company’s customers don’t like them.
If more employees treated their employer as a customer and concentrated on trying to win the company’s business every quarter, reviews would go much smoother.
If you are working for a company, remember that your employer is your customer. You are the vendor providing a service and you invoice the company every two weeks in the form of a time card. Mistakes are going to be made by your customer, some a lot bigger than others. At the end of the day, we should be making the customer experience the best one they have ever had.
See you at the after party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.