Customers motivate employees better than managers

Much is said about how supervisors can motivate their employees, but another group has a much greater influence on the motivation of the employees - the customers. But how can this effect be used?
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The meeting took place on a Thursday afternoon. Two customers were invited and described in detail how they use the company’s product, a special machine, in their operations. One of the two even had product samples with him, so that each participant had the opportunity to take the result into his own hands. Participants in this case were 12 sales employees who worked in the sales office (i.e. usually had at most telephone contact with the customer).

The result of the two-hour meeting was amazing. The employees were responsible for new customer contacts and improved their earnings ratio by almost 30% in the following six months. Of course, other factors also played a role, but after the personal meeting with the customer one thing changed significantly: the personal motivation for the customer to perform well.

This pilot project, which we carried out together with the mechanical engineer, is an indication that (end) customers can motivate employees many times better than many managers can ever do. But how is that possible?

In our modern world, many employees are only a small part of a complex work process. The results of the work are often no longer comprehensible for the individual – an important reason for motivation is thus omitted. Meeting customers, on the other hand, gives one’s own work a name and a face. The work becomes more meaningful.

However, most managers still rely on traditional incentives such as salary increases and promotions. Very few people come up with the idea of making the meaning and purpose of their work clearer and thus lose one of their most important motivational instruments.

If you now think that it is sufficient for managers to explain the effects of the work on the customers to the employees without directly involving the customers (the effort to bring the employees into direct contact with the customers is not insignificant), then unfortunately I have to disappoint you. Organizational psychologists such as David Hofmann from the University of North Carolina contradict this idea.

Hofmann and his team have discovered that customers enjoy significantly more credibility among employees than managers. When executives convey inspiring messages, employees often react skeptically. Personal reports from people who have come into contact with the company’s products and services, however, are seen as evidence that management’s statements are more than just empty words.

So it makes sense to integrate customers into the motivation of your own team. We have noticed in our projects that customers often also take a positive view of this and are happy to be available for such events. Here, too, there seems to be a desire for transparency and exchange.

Then nothing stands in the way of a first experiment – share your own experiences here in the comment field.

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