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Do NOT Treat Your Employees The Way You Want Them To Treat Your Best Customers

March 11, 2014

Maybe I’m just a contrarian.

I follow several blogs, written by writers that I enjoy. Some are very popular, some are guys (and girls) just starting out. For the most part, I agree with what they say. Today I saw a blog titled

How you should treat your employees

Cranston quoted Steven R Covey in admonishing us to treat our employees the way we want them to treat our best customers. I don’t think so.

– Here’s the thing, I don’t trust my customers to have my company’s best interests at heart. I trust my customers to have their own best interests at heart.

– I don’t trust my customers to always tell me the truth. I expect my employees to always tell me truth, even if it’s a hard truth.

Let’s explore just those two topics and how I will treat my employees very differently than I want them to treat my best customers.

Everyone Is Motivated By Self Interest

If I sell a product, or a service, I will price that product or service at an amount that lets me earn a profit. Despite what some people think, you cannot Price It Below Cost But Make It Up In Volume. I expect my employees to know our product line and our service requirements. I want them maximizing opportunities and thus maximizing profits. I might even incentivize them. Maybe I’ll put in a sales commission, or I’ll add a volume bonus for the team.

I want my employees to treat our customers fairly, but I certainly don’t expect them to maximize the customer’s business opportunities. We want to partner with our best customers. We want to be seen as aiding them. But, there will be times where a customer makes a bad business decision. I’ve actually told customers NOT to buy my software when I knew it wouldn’t meet their needs. However, if they insist? Sure, I’ll provide full disclosure, but I’ll sell it to them if they still decide they want it.

I’ve seen customers make terrible business decisions. Decisions that will destroy their companies. If that were happening in my company, I want my employees, no, I expect my employees to speak up. If a customer is destroying his business, perhaps he’s a startup and he’s spending millions of investment dollars building a fancy building rather than building his software, I don’t expect my employees to play business consultant. Not if I’m in the software business. There are ethical and potentially legal ramifications to sticking our nose into their business.

No, I am not going to treat my employees the way I want them to treat my best customers in this case.

Everyone Works For Their Own Self Interest

I asked last week how you would react if someone lied on their resume to get a job, if they confessed during the interview that they had lied? (Lying To Get Ahead) I got some interesting responses. But, for me, I never questioned it. I would end the interview right then. If a potential employee is willing to lie to get an interview, what else might they lie about? If it was really important (in their mind) would they lie to get a raise? A promotion? Make a sale?

No. Integrity and trust in your employees has to be a bedrock principal of a working relationship.

I expect my customers to lie. In fact, when I worked as a phone operator, it was generally understood that all customers lie.

Thanks for calling Microsoft Support, how can I help you?

My computer no longer works.

What have you changed since the last time it was working?



Customers often have really good reasons for it. But, they are going to only tell you what they think you need to know. And I do not blame customers for it. In fact, since I expect it, I build my systems around that expectation.

Well, let’s go in and look at the change log on your computer. It says here that you upgraded to a new operating system yesterday.

Well, yeah, but I figured that didn’t have anything to do with my printer being broken.

If my employees lie to me, they are not going to long be my employees. I might not even fire them, but I won’t trust them, and if I don’t trust them, it will be difficult for them to succeed. Typically people choose to pursue opportunities elsewhere in those type of cases.

If customers lie to me, I’m going to figure that they have their reasons and it’s my team’s job to ask enough questions to get to the truth.

No, I’m not going to treat my employees the way I want them to treat my best customers.

Not even close.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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One Comment
  1. Interesting thoughts Rodney. I am not sure that I am in 100% agreement on all of your points, but I do see where you are coming from.

    I shared this in one of the LinkedIn groups which I am a member of.

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