Company culture problems: How unhappy employees affect your customers

We’ve all encountered a business for the first time and formed an immediate impression of its culture.

Is the receptionist scowling when you walk in? Does the call center assistant heave a sigh with your every request? Do fellow employees cheerfully step in to help a colleague struggling with your order?

Whether over the phone or in person, customers sense how happy your employees are to work there.

We often talk about how company culture affects employees. But culture impacts customer service just as much because your employees, whether happy, aggravated, frustrated or satisfied, interact with your customers.

They even represent your company in their off-hours when attending their children’s ball games or church. A healthy corporate culture equals happy employees, which equals happy customers.

Problems in paradise 

It’s not just the salespeople who interact directly with customers who impact your brand. The happiness and motivation of those behind-the-scenes players also have a noticeable influence on customer service.

In short, every single person in your company needs to feel valued and appreciated because in one way or another, each one affects customer experience, directly or indirectly.

Say your distribution team feels unappreciated by the rest of the company. How likely is it that those employees fulfill orders as efficiently as possible? If a shipment of perishables sits on the dock an extra day, will they go out of their way to fix the issue? That could become a problem that would impact clients.

If your organization has created a culture of fear and lack of empowerment, your employees will be significantly less likely to refer qualified talent to the company. They will also be less likely to take the initiative to solve a customer problem without authorization, which means the customer stays unhappy longer.

Happiness pays off

There’s plenty of science to back up the theory that a positive company culture pays dividends for customers. According to a GloboForce white paper, The Science of Happiness, happy employees are:

  • 58% more likely to go out of their way to help a customer or a colleague
  • 98% more likely to identify with company values and goals
  • 186% more likely to recommend their company for employment and for business

Say a negative company (or departmental) culture is causing turnover. Even if you’ve got a unique product or service offering, clients will leave if they’re constantly “retraining” a new account manager because the old one quit.

If there is a lack of accountability in your company culture, customer problems may not get resolved in an accurate or timely manner. Or, internal warfare between departments may mean no one feels compelled to resolve issues that impact customers. This will likely lead to unhappy customers and negatively affect the company’s reputation and bottom line.

In another study by the iOpener Institute for People and Performance, engaged, enthusiastic employees:

  • Are twice as productive
  • Stay five times longer in their jobs
  • Take 10 times less sick leave
  • Raise issues affecting performance 46% more often

Obviously, happy employees drive a better customer experience because they are more positive in their interactions, stay in their jobs longer, take fewer days off and are more motivated to do well for the company and for themselves.

Change takes time

You don’t want to wait until there’s a problem making people desperate for change. If you’ve been rewarding hyper competitive behavior, employees may have been focusing on conquering one another, and your customers may sense the internal hostility and desperation.

It’s good to recognize the need for a culture change, but don’t expect immediate results. While you may be able to modify compensation to promote teamwork relatively quickly, alterations to your corporate culture can take three to five years.

This difficulty in changing culture is why it should be carefully defined and modeled at the executive level and executed by individual managers throughout the organization, daily. It’s also why culture makes such a profound impact on profitability.

Want to impact your company culture for the better? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.