There are many highly successful companies that tout their customer focus. It is easy to see that they truly put customers at the top of their priority list. You can also find an equally long list of highly successful companies that prioritize employees first. So, which is it – customers first or employees first? Let’s look at this question and see what we can learn.

Why Customers First

At some level, it is helpful to remember that the customer writes everyone’s paycheck. No customers, no company. Given that, it makes sense to say we should focus on the Customers first. Specific reasons could include (but are not limited to):

  • Increased Customer satisfaction. When we focus on Customers, we are more likely to create and deliver what they want and need. In turn, they are more likely to return and then stay.
  • Greater revenue. Happier Customers will likely buy more and tell their friends. Put those two things together and revenues will likely grow.
  • Competitive advantage. One of the best advantages we can create is a loyal Customer.
  • Improved product development. The better we know our Customers, the better equipped we are to produce new things to meet their needs.

Why Employees First

Proponents of “employees first” will say that without a strong team, there is no way we can meet the needs of the Customer. Some specific reasons people prioritize employees include:

  • Increased employee engagement. Prioritizing the needs of our employees gives them the chance to be more engaged with their work. This means greater productivity with better results.
  • Improved retention. People are less likely to leave a team when they feel valued and are doing meaningful work. Why would they?
  • Greater collaboration and innovation. An employee-focused organization will foster better communication and collaboration. Valuing input and ideas fosters both the quantity and quality of input and ideas.
  • Better Customer service. Happier, more engaged team members will take better care of the Customer experience, relationships, and more.

What’s the Right Answer?

When you read these lists, it is hard to argue with either one. Chicken or egg? Yin or yang? One or one A?

Look at the lists again and you will see some big parallels. When people, be they customers or employees, feel valued, respected, trusted, in-the-know, and focused on, they want to stay connected with that source of those good things. So, if your organization is already successfully focused on one or the other of these groups, you have the skills to build the same relationships and results with the other group.

Start with your current culture and priorities. If you lean toward Customer focus, great. But remember your employees are the face of your organization to them. If you lean toward employee focus, don’t make that where your achievement ends. Instead, treat it as a springboard to greater customer results.

Customers first or employees first?

Together, they are the symbiotic sources of your success.

 The answer is “yes.”

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High Impact Leadership: The #1 Fastest Way to Accelerate Your Organization’s Success

February 22, 2024  1:00pm ET

Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group ( He has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders from around the world, on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication and more.
Twice he has been named by as one of the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other similar lists.

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