Business Magazine

Treat Colleagues Like Customers

Posted on the 14 March 2011 by Alanhargreaves @RechargeToday

Try this just for today

I once worked in a restaurant where the owner was totally focussed on customer service. The diner’s experience had to be perfect.

Unfortunately, he was obsessive. If a waitress returned to the kitchen to refill a salt shaker, she would not be acknowledged for being on the case. Instead, she would be castigated for not having sorted it out before the diner arrived.

People hated working there. No one felt they were on the same team. Staff turnover was massive. The food was good but the business was a disaster.

Customer service has become a mantra, but if you want a balanced and successful business, extend the idea of service beyond your customers.

What about colleague service?

What can you do to serve those you work with? There are common guidelines for boosting customer relations. Below they have been amended to apply your colleagues.

  • Prioritise. Focus on developing a quality employee, not just a product
  • Provide quality. Make the work experience a positive experience
  • Communicate. Develop a two-way dialogue, not a one-way conversation
  • Deliver. If you promise to do something, follow through
  • Check your attitude. Take a positive view of people’s talents

Work with someone

Identify someone you feel you can assist. Don’t make it a massive task. As Mother Theresa said, ‘If you can’t feed one hundred, feed one’. It doesn’t have to be the best performer. It may be someone in whom you can see potential but who is currently underachieving. The critical question is: how you can serve that employee?

Schedule a session with them. This is not a performance appraisal. Communicate exactly what it is about them that you really value. Acknowledge their contribution. If there is some small reward you can offer, do so.

Ask about their role and their personal development. Is there is any improvement they would like to see in their position, skill set or level of responsibility? How you could support this? Serve them, just as you would a customer.

Maybe nothing will be apparent. Ask them to think about it and come back to you with any ideas.

This is a small, first step in building trust and loyalty. You could be surprised at the result.

Corporations increasingly look on personal career planning as a staff service run by human resources departments. It needn’t be that formal. What you have just done is take a first step in exactly the same process.

Ultimately, it is a step towards team development and the powerful leverage of serving others. By helping someone climb a hill, your will be nearer the top yourself.


Drawn from “Recharge Your Team”, a section in my latest book, Recharge, published by John Wiley. To find out more, or to buy online, click here.

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