Stakeholder Integration:
Loyal Customers AND Employees Matter

Who is the most important Stakeholder for a company? Some might say investors – after all they are the ones infusing their own capital into the business in hopes of returns in the future. Others might say it’s the company’s employees – they get the work done, create, innovate and are the face to customers. What about the actual customer? Could the customer possibly be the most important stakeholder? Leading conscious businesses such as Trader Joes, Whole Foods, The Container Store and Southwest Airlines think and treat their customers as the most important stakeholder and there is good reason for this (Mackey). Proven by long term success and annual growth – these conscious businesses have seen great sustained returns by focusing the efforts on building a satisfied, happy and loyal customer base.

Southwest Airlines Video: Southwest Purpose and Vision

The formula for success is rather simple, however establishing a conscious business model to support it requires serious planning, focus and attention: happy customers = more business = happier employees = better work environment = enriched environment to shop for customers (Mackey).

Creating a customer-focused business does not happen overnight. It requires vision and alignment from company leaders down to the frontline. Employees arguably play the biggest role in constructing a customer-focused company. Employees are the primary interaction point between customers and the business. They are the brand ambassadors and their actions drive how a customer feels about the company they are doing business with. As outlined in Mackey and Sisodia’s book Conscious Capitalism, customers want to do business with companies that align to their values. Therefore it is critically important for businesses to ensure that they have the best employees who are conducting themselves in a manner that aligns to the ideals that the company wants to be known for – sustainability, health, value, trust, etc.

Customer focused businesses operate on a different level. They are responsible to their customers because they know that it is key to long-term success and profits. They do not push products of the week or discount items from manufactures. They educate, guide and listen to feedback. They evolve, stay one step ahead of trends and add value to their customers (Mackey). Home Depot’s co-founder Bernie Marcus outlines this view perfectly – if you treat customer right, you eventually see it in your bottom-line (Mackey).

The Home Depot Values

Businesses that place customers as the most important stakeholder, take their genuine attitude towards treating customers as how they would want to be treated, even in the way they market to them. An example of this is Trader Joes and The Fearless Flyer. Its purpose is to educate, highlight and position products they believe in. They do not promote new items from partners just for sake of it, they also don’t use it as a vehicle for sales promotions – instead they pride themselves on providing great value everyday (Mackey).

The result of conducting business in this manner is a deepened customer relationship, which in most cases translates into long-term value for the business. This is especially true because customers become your advocates. They are best marketers you can find – free, passionate and loyal.

Building Customer Loyalty the Hard (And Only) Way

Trader Joe's is doing it right and put their efforts on customer satisfaction: http://www.forbes.com/sites/retailwire/2013/07/30/why-are-trader-joes-customers-the-most-satisfied-in-america/

Good Employees Make Good Customer Interactions

The only way to truly ensure that customers are central to your business is to plan and execute a customer-centric business model. And the only way to properly deliver the most value to your customers is through attracting, retaining and investing in employees who create the customer experience. This important relationship illustrates why employees are very important stakeholders.

Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

Target seems to get it:

https://corporate.target.com/corporate-responsibility/team-members

4 ways employee success can positively impact your bottom line & sustainability:

  1. Improve Morale: When people feel good about going to work because it's a place where they can grow and achieve, it elevates the energy of your entire organization. You can feel it at meetings in different offices. The silence is sometimes so intense that you can't wait to leave. Other times, the entire place is buzzing with productivity. Leadership's job is to combat poor morale and create the latter scenario every day.
  2. Increase Retention: Many startups offer company shares as a way to keep people invested. But people really only stay for one reason: They want to be there. When your employees are doing something they love, working with other creative people, and feeling supported to do their best work, retention automatically follows.
  3. Drive Loyalty: Very few people perform well if they feel they're in an unsafe or unsupportive environment. When employees feel unsafe, they revert to a more primitive and less productive mindset. When employees feel safe and supported, they're better able to access their frontal lobe and cognitive skills to become more adept problem solvers and team members. Additionally, when people feel supported personally and professionally, they're naturally more engaged and accountable.
  4. Boost Reputation: Being a "great place to work" is a big deal, and it receives consistent media coverage. As word travels that your company supports employee growth and fulfillment, you'll attract the most competitive candidates.

(Source: http://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/how-investing-in-employees-ensures-your-organization-s-success.html)

Ethical Consumerism

It is crucial to emphasize that ethical consumption can lead to conscious businesses. As consumers, we need to look beyond the product or service.

We can no longer overlook issues like labor violation, destruction of natural habitat, and environmental abuse. We have the power to change the world by being an ethical consumer. Let's change the world!

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world"- Mahatma Gandhi

Please view the video and article below that highlight this:

Ethical consumerism and the power of having a choice / voice : Jason Garman at TEDxTeAro

Ethical Consumerism Isn’t Dead, It Just Needs Better Marketing

Questions

1) Are you a loyal customer to an organization? If so, where and why?

2) Have you as an employee had to market things on behalf of your organization that you thought wasn't inline with the organizations higher purpose or original mission? If so, how did that feel?

3) How can you impact your organization to be more conscious?

4) Do you believe that mindful consumption can force corporations to change their behavior? What other attributes do you look for in a brand other than price and quality

CITATIONS

John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013).

Southwest Airlines. Southwest Purpose and Vision. December 19th, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGxMf88I5g4

Home Depot. The Home Depot Values. https://corporate.homedepot.com/OurCompany/Values/Pages/default.aspx

Micah Solomon. July 22, 2013. Forbes. Building Customer Loyalty the Hard (And Only) Way. http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2013/07/22/building-customer-loyalty-the-hard-and-only-way/

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