As I scroll through my morning articles and review headlines from across industries, I continually see advice posts addressing the customer service trend and a concentration on customer happy-employees4service as “the new marketing.”

While I completely agree that a company can sink or swim based on how they treat people, it’s not soley about how they treat the customer, it’s also about how they treat the employee.

In today’s digital world and through the use of social media, companies are adjusting and really shifting toward a focus on engagement and online service, which is key, but think about the employee part of that equation and how employees and their social media involvement can be just as, or more, important (think about the Social Business trend of encouraging employees to use social and be social).

I think we sometimes forget that the foundation of and key to effective customer service stems from effective “employee service. “ In other words, if your employees are happy, customers will be happy.

Now, before I am inundated with case studies demonstrating that employees were happy, but didn’t transfer that onto their customer interactions, bear with me and read on to find out why I think this is the key to company success.

Employees are your best, or worst, advocates. When employees are angry, they voice their anger and it’s usually much louder than a customer voice. Employee dialogue surrounding their work environment can be shared everywhere from online to the dinner table, and it impacts others’ opinions on many levels.

Just because employees might not badmouth products or services as customers would, they may badmouth other aspects of a company, which are much more telling. Discussing dissatisfaction with a company’s ethics and values is a very strong opinion, and one that current/future customers do care about in today’s society. Anger at superiors for mistreatment is something that could impact buying decisions. But at the same time, if an employee absolutely loves the company they work for, or they are happy with their environment, this speaks volumes to their network.

Case in point, I was at a retail store about a week ago and heard two sales associates blatantly discussing a third associate, a manager, who wasn’t there. As I politely eavesdropped on the conversation (it was loud enough that anyone within a 10-foot radius could hear), I couldn’t help but find myself siding with the two associates who were present and being angry at the third.

Although I know I was only hearing two-thirds of the story, I immediately changed my perception of the company on two levels – 1. I decided that the employees are unhappy (and unprofessional); and 2. The managerial team is cold and selfish.

I no longer wanted to shop there, and I left.

A book that looks at this exact situation and backs it up with some stats and studies, is, Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, by Dr. Noelle Nelson. In her book, she discusses a study from the Jackson Organization (now Healthstream, Inc.), which shows that, “companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t. When looking at Fortune’s ’100 Best Companies to Work For’ stock prices rose an average of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the overall market.”

Now, in my situation, it is not to say that I won’t return and I won’t ever purchase from the company again, but the bottom line is that employee unhappiness and dissatisfaction tainted my experience and I walked out the door. Customer service was hurt due to the lack of employee service.

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