Who’s More Important to a Business? Its Customers or Its Employees?

I know, it’s a loaded question. And the easy answer is to say that they are equally important. But what if you had to choose?

I thought about the question today, in the midst of our latest snowstorm.

A couple of local businesses I know had to make a decision on whether to open or not. It’s a big day for these businesses since it is Super Bowl Sunday.

The owners had to make the tradeoff between risking the safety of their employees in getting to work or choosing to satisfy customers who may have been counting on the businesses to be open.

If I had to choose between the two, I would go with the employees as being the more important of the two groups.

The employees are a reflection of the business, and showing the employees that you respect them is a sign of a company that cares. And customers should want to support such a business. And potential employees would be attracted to such a business.

But if you put customers first, many people may assume that the business favors profits over people. And that may make it difficult to attract effective and loyal employees.

So to me, it starts with taking care of your employees, and once you have proven that you are loyal to them, then you can work to gain the same trust with your customers.

That combination should make for a successful business…

62 thoughts on “Who’s More Important to a Business? Its Customers or Its Employees?

  1. Why not compromise between the two? Have your employees drive halfway to work, and have your customers drive halfway to your business. That way, neither side can say they’ve been treated unfairly.

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  2. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “the customer is always right.” I don’t necessarily agree with that, although customer service is an important part of any business. I think happy employees are more important in a business because they are more likely to go the extra mile to keep the customers happy and satisfied. One of the things I always pay attention to with any business I’ve been going to for a long time is the turnover. When people stay a long time, it usually is because the management treats them well. Disgruntled employees often carry over their negativity to customers.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. My kids who have both worked with the public in their teen years at Fast Food restaurants will tell you that they strongly dislike that “customer is always right” saying. I felt the same way about it when working with the public, for you know very well that its not true! But they still get the free sandwich or extra fries that they said weren’t in the bag, etc. I still remember working at Fast Food and having a customer tell me his fries were no good so he wanted new ones. The thing was is that half of his fries were already gone! If I didn’t like the taste of something I sure am not going to keep eating it!

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      1. Some people definitely take advantage of the system. I occasionally watch the television show Judge Judy and the description you described with the fries sounds exactly like one of her analogies. She says, “You can’t eat the steak and then tell the manager you were unhappy with it.”

        One of my first jobs was working at KFC. Dealing with rude customers was part of that gig. Experiences such as those are valuable because I learned I didn’t want to do a crappy job like that for my career.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They did have their nice customers too! Bur the nerve od some customers just left you shaking your head! One customer got mad because they wouldn’t accept a coupon for a different fast food restaurant! LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. well said, Pete. and that seems like a good way to judge a business is by looking at turnover. I’ll have to keep a closer eye on businesses I use to see how they are doing with turnover.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Of course you would close. A business owner would be equally concerned about the safety of their staff and their customers. It the roads are truly dangerous to travel, then it is best we all stay home.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i completely agree. during all my years of food and drink service, my favorite place i ever worked was at zingerman’s, whose owners truly lived by that.

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  5. I agree that it should be the employees that come first! For like the others said if you have happy employees their happiness will spread to the customers. Then its a Win Win! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Weighing what is at stake rather than which of the two are more important. I think that neither one is more important; they are interconnected and important in very different ways so the assessment is more complex than one is more important than the other. Having said that, if I had to choose, it would be the employee’s safety that will have the most impact for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jim, I was thinking “loaded question” but you beat me to it. A business cannot offer its products and services without an effective and efficient cadre of employees. At the same time, the employees must strive to meet the needs of the customer. Over the long haul, a business needs both.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A balance is necessary for a business to thrive, Jim. In the USA, my perception is that profits are more important than employees, especially in corporates. Employees are abused and expected to work inappropriately long hours. This is my perception, as I say. Maybe this is only true of the financial world and the banks. In South Africa, the balance has swung the other way and our employees take no responsibility for delivering good quality work. There is not sense of accountability and employees hold companies to random. The protect legislation has produced a generation of entitled and lazy workers. Our economy is paying a heavy price for this and our immigration stats are high. The brain drain has become so bad here, you just can’t find the skills in the market.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think your perception is mostly correct about the USA; most firms often care more about their shareholders than their employees.

      And that’s a shame to hear what has happened in South Africa; was their some event that caused such a shift?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know, Jim, I wrote a short story recently. It’s included in Wings & Fire anthology and it was about a farm murder in South Africa. It is very brutal and there is a double rape. Some readers were horrified and I got the impression people thought this was made up and over the top. Of course, nothing I write is made up, my stories are all based on true events. There were 80 farm murders in South Africa last year and most of them followed a pattern similar to the events in my short story. I wrote it because I felt compelled to share about what is happening in rural parts of South Africa. This is why people are leaving, because they are scared of the out of control crime and the fact the government turns a blind I to hate speech like a political leader calling for the killing of Boers [farmers]. South Africa is sadly, a complete mess of corruption, greed and hatred.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. You can tell a good employer from what happens to the employee on the desk or the shop floor. It’s the person on the desk who has to face the irate customers when something has gone wrong. It’s usually not their fault and solving it is up to the far better paid management – but will they step in to support their employees?


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