Why Staff Are Your Most Important Customers – A New Perspective


Conventional thinking about employee performance has its limitations. For instance seeing your staff as your customers isn’t widely discussed. But the “staff as customers” approach has much to recommend it.

Many companies spend a small fortune to retain customers and keep them happy. But if you can’t retain good staff, you won’t retain good clients.

Keeping Customers

We all try desperately to retain good customers. We talk about “lifetime value” and their worth to us. If necessary, “serve ‘em to death”, as the old sales trainers used to say.

But there are people who you already pay to do that.  They are part of your business, day in and day out. You pay them day in and day out, and they are very important to the success of your business.

Those “Internal” Customers

You call them staff, your “internal” customers. If they don’t provide the essential service levels that satisfy, even delight your external customers, your business may be in jeopardy.

Disgruntled And Unhappy Who?

How do you treat disgruntled external customers? Calm them? Apologize?  Try to find out what’s upset them? Try to restore their confidence in you? Offer restitution or compensation?

How do you treat disgruntled staff? Do you show them the same courtesy as the disgruntled external client? Or do you counsel them about inappropriate behaviour, remind them of their obligations and threaten dire consequences if they continue to show their feelings?

The Real Damage

The disgruntled external customer can damage you by taking their business elsewhere and telling others. That’s not good. But it’s about the most damage they can do.

But disgruntled staff can damage you far more. You have to continue to pay the salary and taxes. If they continue to do you damage, you’ll dismiss them. By then the real damage has been done. You don’t know how much they’ve already cost you in lost business.

A Matter of Money

I’m not suggesting that you “go soft” on employees when they perform poorly. You are entitled to expect them to perform well. I am saying that employees can “make or break” your business. Seeing them as customers will give you a new perceptive.

Think about this. In Australia, salary service costs average about 40%. That means you pay a total of $70,000 p.a. to retain an employee you actually pay $50,000 p.a. You continue to pay unhappy or disgruntled staff. You pay external customers nothing.


Staff constitute a huge investment. They are “internal” customers. Treat them as you would a major external customer. By doing so, you’re far more likely to retain the external customers. Do the sums!

6 Responses to Why Staff Are Your Most Important Customers – A New Perspective
  1. Marcus Sheridan, The Sales LIon
    November 10, 2010 | 4:50 am

    Really loved this post Leon because frankly I’ve never looked at my staff as my ‘customers’. By putting it in that perspective, it certainly sheds a different light on things.

    Thanks for all you do.

  2. Leon
    November 10, 2010 | 5:14 pm

    Thanks Marcus,
    Glad you found the post helpful. I guess I’m trying to get managers to see their staff as the most important resource at their disposal to develop their business. And to grasp that the responsibility for developing that resource is in their hands
    Good to hear from you



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    November 10, 2010 | 10:47 pm

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  4. Leon
    November 20, 2010 | 2:19 pm

    Glad to be able to help. I post twice a week and welcome all comments


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    December 7, 2010 | 10:47 am

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  6. Leon
    December 13, 2010 | 8:50 am

    G’Day Santi,
    Thanks for you most generous comments. Always glad to hear from you.


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