Top, Bottom, Middle.
Typically the order of priorities for a business is Customers first, then employees, then your customers customers. This is the model that looks right from the outside. At the top of the list is customers, the ones that are paying the bills, in the middle is employees, the ones providing the value, at the bottom after everything else, customer’s customers. This is flawed and I will break down why in a minute. But first it’s important to define the terms.
First customers. That’s easy, they’re the people that you’re selling to and are writing the checks. Employees are next. These are the people pouring their lives into company. They’re passionate, talented (hopefully), and want the business to succeed (again, hopefully). Sometimes for no other reason than to keep getting paid (we’ll address this in another post). Last is your customer’s’ customers. This is often an end users using your SAAS in an enterprise environment, or toddlers who play with the toys you stock.
Take the list: customers, employees, other crap, and customer’s customers. Cut the list into strips and burn “things that don’t actually matter” then arrange them like this:
- Customer’s Customers
This is our priority list. And we think it should be yours too. Here’s why.
Employees are the Fuel
Employees are the most important thing in your business. Every single one. The intern getting coffee, the late night stocking person, everyone. Everyone brings enough value to your business to justify the annoyance and expense that comes with hiring. Beyond that simple metric of how much value your employee brings, they are the embodiment of your business. It’s really that cliche, and it’s really that simple.
Your employees are your brand, therefore your employees need to know, understand, and act according to that mentality. You can’t force them into that role, they’re going to live their day to day based on the culture of the company. Crappy culture. Crappy employees. This is why your employees are the single most important piece of your company. They are the ones that can have the lasting impression on a customer.
Was the receptionist cheerful and willing to help me find my way while I looked lost in the lobby? Or was she in a bad mood and frustrated because their co-workers were being jerks? If you need more examples of companies with terrible culture just look to the internet. There you will find businesses where the employees get on facebook or twitter (probably during work hours) and talk bad about the company. All the marketing or amazing products in the world won’t save you from the negative marketing of your upset employees. This is why they’re priority 1, they are the gasoline that keeps the car moving forward.
I want people that read this to understand the simplicity of this priority and why they usually overlook it. A toy store isn’t stocking a toy for whoever is actually paying for the toy, be that the mom, dad, aunt, friend, etc. They’re buying and stocking it for the kids that are going to play with it. The people that are going to buy it are just a go between. If they built toys for the people buying the actual products they would be less focused on entertainment and fun and more focused on solving arguments between siblings, cleaning up your own mess, and how to effectively do the laundry or dishes. Because that’s really what kids need to learn.
So how do you care about your customer’s customer? Simple. Ask your customers. They’re the ones that know their own customer base better than anybody else. They just need asked. Once you nail down the pain points that their customers experience it’s just a matter of finding, and then providing, a solution that makes their lives better. Their customers hate hanging things because they don’t like holes in their walls? Sell them 3m command strips. Their customers hate instrument cables that fall apart after 3 months? Then make a better cable.
The Bottom of the List
Your customers come last on this list of three. But, there’s a reason for that and it’s simple. If you’re solving problems for their customers, they’re going to continue buying your product. Customers will continue to work with companies that best add value to their business. Most people aren’t buying Brawny paper towels from Amazon because nobody sells paper towels near them. They’re buying because they have a problem (lack of time to go to store) and Amazon is making it convenient for them (Amazon Pantry).
It’s that simple
The solution looks simple. But executing is trickier. Your customers have to trust you to take care of their customers. That doesn’t come easy and it will take some work. But once you get over that hump, and the trust is there, your customers will love you all the more. Keep solving their problems and they’ll continue to buy your products or services. Just make sure they know that’s what you’re doing.