Satisfying Both Employees and Customers

Excellently managed service companies believe that employee relations will affect customer relations. In these firms, management carries out internal marketing and provides employee support and rewards for good performance. In addition, management regularly audits employee job satisfaction. Rosenbluth and Peters, in The Customer Comes Second, go so far as to say that the company's employees, not the company's customers, have to be made number one if the company hopes to truly satisfy its customers.28

The Safeway supermarket chain found this out when it instituted a customer-friendly policy that actually caused stress for many of its employees. Its Superior Service program mandates employee friendliness toward customers, with rules such as: Make eye contact with all customers, smile, and greet each customer. To ensure compliance, the store employs "mystery shoppers" who secretly grade workers. Those who are graded "poor" are sent to a training program to learn how to be friendlier. Although surveys show that customers are pleased with the program, many employees have admitted being stressed out and several have quit over the plan. Disgruntled workers complain that they must override their own instincts in favor of the corporate friendliness formula. For instance, employees are required to greet harried customers whose body language tells workers that they want to be left alone. The program has set off a spirited debate on the Internet over false-versus-real friendliness. At one Internet discussion group titled "Forced Smiles at Safeway," opinion ran 2-to-1 against the program.29

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