Very few executives ever speak to a disgruntled, or even regular, customer. That’s left to front-line staff and, by and large, they do a pretty good job. Not always excellent but we consumers get by.
Then we get to this. The article refers to two things – the absence of senior level vision, and treating average employees as a commodity, a cost to the business.
Being an executive in a big company is very tough. The pressures are incredible. But they must maintain balance between making short-term decisions to win bonuses and gain favour with shareholders and analysts, and looking after their most important asset – their front-line employees.
The front-line team are not paid a lot, but their impact is immense. They have the customer experience in their control at a point in time and beyond. They affect outcomes. Failing to invest in the front-line will adversely affect customers and your brand, making future growth reliant on heavy advertising and product price.
Word-of-mouth is off the table and there is no loyalty. Customers associate your brand with indifference.
My point is that your brand is always associated with something. Treating your front-line people and, therefore, customers as a commodity is a dangerous tactic and works against brand-building, business growth, and even increasing margins.
When executives lower their vision from the horizon to focus on improving quarterly results by a point or two through cutting front-line staff costs they are reacting and NOT managing the business. Sure, costs need to be managed but I expect that other areas exist, including executive rewards, where cutting back can be done before the lowest-paid people are individually affected.
Do remember the story of the US car executives from 2008? They asked for government money to bail them out but arrived by executive jet at a time when consumers, and their car-assembling employees, were really hurting. Fair and just?
Think first, is my advice. Two questions should be asked. Is the decision a short-term one? And are front-line people an asset or a commodity? The answers to these will affect how executives manage the business.