Treating Colleagues Like Customers

In addition to making it easier for employees to work with one another, treating colleagues like customers has benefits such as enhancing the employee experience and increasing employee engagement.

Have you experienced a co-worker who is wonderful to customers or clients, but not so wonderful to colleagues inside the company? I have! And I bet this situation has happened at some point in your organization.

What is the solution to this problem?

You could train all employees to treat their internal colleagues with the same tact and consideration they use when dealing with customers. In addition to making it easier for employees to work with one another, treating employees like customers has benefits in enhancing the employee experience and employee engagement.

I found this blog by SoGoSurvey that outlines the benefits of treating colleagues as customers. Those benefits include greater productivity. People tend to care more about their work when they feel cared for. In one-on-one employee relationships, I’m going to want to do more for the colleague who treats me with the same charm and courtesy that they treat a customer versus one who is so hypercritical that I feel like a put-upon short-order cook.

When you feel like a colleague rather than an over-taxed servant, not surprisingly, communication also improves. You find you can freely express when an assignment doesn’t seem like it’s going to be deliverable, or that it won’t be deliverable within the timeframe your colleague has requested. If your colleague is thinking of you with the same respect and consideration they would use to think of a customer, they also will listen to you more closely.

“Let’s find a timeline that works for both of us,” the colleague likely would say to a customer. “Obviously, we want to create a plan that’s going to be successful on both our ends.” What if your colleague said a variation of that same statement to you? Just as they would check with a customer before setting a plan in place, they would check with their colleague before finalizing plans. “How does that plan sound to you?” they would ask you. “Does that sound like a realistic timeline that will allow you to do everything you need to do by that time?” That conversation would take place before making promises to the customer. You would never start work with colleagues before having a conversation with the customer about expectations and needs, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your own colleagues?

When employees are coordinated in their understanding and feeling of security about the promises that have been made to customers, the end-product delivered to the customer probably will be improved. Unsatisfied customers are usually the result of over-promising and under-delivering.

What is the best way to train all employees that treating colleagues with the same consideration as customers is part of your corporate culture? It may be assumed that the company’s leaders are the only ones responsible for treating employees with respect and care. If it’s not pointed out to employees during training, they may not realize that it’s also their responsibility to enforce the culture of treating employees as customers.

Employees who are more popular with customers than colleagues sometimes make the mistake of selling products and services that don’t exist, or will be impossible to deliver, because they don’t understand their colleagues’ work processes. So they promise something that is possible in theory, but not in practice given the workflow of their colleagues. The training solution is to make sure every employee in a work group understands not only what all their colleagues do, but how they do it. They may not realize that what they promised will take twice as long as they originally thought because no one taught them that.

It’s easy to work in a short-sighted silo, so that the only thing that matters in the moment is pleasing the customer. Failing to also please your colleagues, on whom you are depending to do the necessary work, will produce exactly the opposite result. You end up with an unhappy customer, who didn’t get what was promised, and an unhappy colleague who was set up for failure.

Do you train employees to treat colleagues with the same respect and consideration they show to customers? If so, how do you enforce this training, so employees’ treatment of colleagues is what it should be?