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3 Tips on Creating Happy Customers by Creating Happy Employees

Happy employees boost the bottom line of companies by 240% according to a 2009 Gallup report.  Why?  Because of a simple truth--happy employees make happy customers.

Happy employees engage and satisfy customers, which results in amazing customer service.  Amazing customer service means repeat business and tremendous free word-of-mouth advertising.

At iDoneThis, we work with some of the hottest startups around like Foursquare and Shopify, companies that have happy and fanatical customers.  Here are 3 tips I’ve learned on creating happy customers by creating happy employees.

Put People First -- Give Them Autonomy to Get Stuff Done in Their Own Way

Outstanding customer service emerges from a company culture that consists of caring and putting people first. The less employees feel valued as human beings, the lower the incentive and inclination they’ll have to make customers feel valued. Disengaged employees deliver poorer customer experiences, through inferior interaction and crippling the potential of companies to provide their best products or services.

The secret to happy, engaged employees is treating them like individuals, nurturing their growth and enabling autonomy to be creative, experiment, take initiatives, and generally be free to be awesome at their work.

One example of putting people first comes from Google.  To manage employees with the lightest possible touch, Google eschewed meetings and micromanagement in favor of a lightweight software tool they built themselves called Snippets.

With Snippets, employees receive a weekly email asking them to write down what they did last week and what they plan to do in the upcoming week.  Replies get compiled in a public space that everyone can see and snippets get distributed automatically the following day by email.

The process has played a part in Google’s relatively flat organizational structure and startup culture in spite of its crazy growth, because it’s focused around giving individuals autonomy in getting stuff done so long as they keep everyone updated on their progress.

Reporting happens asynchronously with minimal disruption to work.  Rather than having an interruptive meeting on what someone is getting done, just go to Snippets and it’s right there.

iDoneThis is a simple way to bring the process of Google product snippets to every company that Foursquare, Shopify and many Y Combinator companies use.  Ultimately, when companies put people first, the company gets that person’s best work, which means happy customers.

Celebrate Accomplishments--Even Small Wins Matter

Fantastic companies with people-first cultures show greater employee engagement through celebrating accomplishments and expressing gratitude for co-workers’ hard work.

Shopify is an e-commerce software startup that successfully scaled up to 100 employees in one year. They have a monthly bonus compensation system called Unicorn which is entirely powered by sharing thanks for co-workers’ accomplishments.

Here’s how it works: When Serena does something awesome, Daniel gives her thanks by going into Unicorn and logging what she got done.  Everyone in the company sees Serena’s contributions and can pile on more unicorns.

At month’s close, every employee in Shopify gets allocated a proportion of the company’s profits that Shopify reserves for Unicorn bonuses.  Daniel’s allocation goes to Serena and anyone else to whom he’s given unicorns over the course of the month.  In other words, Serena’s bonus is determined by the gratitude of her peers for a job well done.

Encouraging employees to celebrate each others’ accomplishments creates a sense of being part of something that you have a shared stake in.  Employees that feel like they are stakeholders in the company’s vision will ensure the same for the customer experience.

Leadership Through Service

A people-first company culture features a strong service mentality of helping others thrive. Take the success of Zappos for example, a company that has built its brand upon the concept of awesome customer service through building an awesome culture.

Founder Tony Hsieh said that once you get the culture right, the other elements of a successful business follow. Zappos has shown the strength of the symbiosis of company culture and servant leadership.

At Zappos, customer service is everyone’s responsibility, from the lowest level employee to upper management.  Moreover, it’s not only about service to customers, everyone in the company has a duty to serve her colleagues within the company in equal measure.

By fostering the future of other individuals, whether our employees or our customers, we  sustain a stronger culture and entity, because employees are allowed to grow and adopt this people-first mentality themselves.


Great customer services comes from the inside out.  Build an awesome company culture with happy employees, and first-rate customer service will happen as a byproduct.

What are tricks that you have for creating happy employees?  Let me know what you think about putting people first, celebrating accomplishments, and focusing on service as a way to build a happy company.

Walter Chen is the co-founder of iDoneThis, status reporting at work with the lightest possible touch.

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