‘Tis the season to do right by your employees and customers

December 16, 2013 - by: Dan Oswald 11 COMMENTS

Tis Seasonby Dan Oswald

Have you ever thought about what employees really want from a company and a manager? What is it that really makes employees feel satisfied in their work? Among other things, having a manager who cares about them as people is part of being happy at work. So when I heard about Liberty Bottleworks, I figured it must have a pretty satisfied workforce. Here’s the story.

It seems that over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the folks at Liberty had a customer who was upset about the lack of responsiveness from the company. It seems she wanted to speak with someone on Saturday when the company was closed. The customer became agitated and sent some inflammatory and harassing e-mails to Liberty employees and posted a negative rant on Facebook. When employees did return her calls in an attempt to rectify the situation, she hung up.

That’s when Liberty COO Ryan Clark swung into action. Not able to reach the customer by phone, he responded directly to her negative post on Facebook with a polite but pointed response. In the response, he told the customer that his employees were home spending the holiday weekend with their families and that the company embraces a “family first, product second” philosophy. He went on to say that he would gladly give the customer her money back but that he wasn’t sorry the employees were home enjoying the holidays with their families. He even went so far as to provide his personal cell phone number so she could reach him directly.

Clark’s response has gone viral, and the support for his position has been overwhelmingly positive. Liberty has been swamped with traffic to its website and calls to the company—so much so that it has had to apologize for not being able to keep up with all the orders that resulted from one manager doing the right thing by his employees!

Don’t you wish every good deed was rewarded like that? It seems to me that Liberty Bottleworks and Ryan Clark have two things figured out. First, family is more important than work. Period. Second, sometimes customers are WRONG. And sticking up for your employees when they are can get you a lot of points with employees and your other customers.

And what is it that every manager wants? To create a sense of teamwork among employees? To overwhelmingly exceed customers’ expectations? Maybe find innovative ways to garner an incredible amount of positive publicity for the company? And what about having a great time doing all of it? Well, that’s exactly what happened when Canadian airline WestJet decided to spread some holiday cheer.

If you haven’t seen the video of what WestJet employees did, then I encourage you to take a look. You might be as amazed at what they did as I was. You see, the people at WestJet found an innovative way to learn what some of their customers had on their list for Santa and then fulfilled those wishes. In the process, not only did they dazzle their customers and spread some goodwill, but they also seemed to have a blast in the process. What a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday season! All of us should be so lucky to work for a company that so clearly “gets it.” And when you watch the video, tell me it isn’t clear that it’s better to give than to receive.

Sometimes something as simple as doing the right thing by defending a couple of employees who are taking unwarranted abuse from a customer can gain a manager the loyalty of employees and customers alike. And other times, a more elaborate plan might be necessary to get the same result. These two holiday stories demonstrate the impact a manager and a company can have on the lives of the people who work there and the customers with whom they do business. In the end, isn’t it about the lives that we touch every day? Will you be remembered for the good you did today?

11 COMMENTS

1 Donna Pascoe
08:17:00, 17/12/13

Thank you for posting this was an incredibly uplifiting article. I was out of work for 18 months and now work for a company that truly values its employees and their families. It makes a big difference when you feel that your employer cares about people! It makes me go the extra mile to contribute to the company’s success.

I definitely agree that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Merry Christmas!

2 Melissa Austin
08:46:20, 17/12/13

I always look forward to reading The Oswald Letter. I enjoy your stories, words of wisdom and your leadership style. It’s not often leaders truly “get it”. This letter today “Tis the season to do right by your employees and customers” was special. It was so inspiring to read about Mr. Clark’s response to an out of control customer. His behavior was so professional but it was clear that his top priority was his employees and doing what was right. Too often a manager will throw an employee under the bus just to pacify a customer who is in the wrong. Kudos to him. I couldn’t wait to watch the video from WestJet but never imagined it would have such an impact on me. That absolutely made my day, it made my holiday! What a great company and what a pleasure it must be for the employees who work there. More than anything, it was great to see the pure joy I could see on the faces of the employees as they stood back watching the customers react to the gifts that they had a part in giving. What a great way to start my day! Thanks so much!

3 Wanda Harrison
09:50:03, 17/12/13

Thank you for pointing out what so many businesses today forget; that family should always come first! When I saw the article on WestJet’s sharing of the Christmas spirit, I was surprised. But it seems that more companies are starting to look past the bottom line and rethink what it means to be a good company.

4 Brenda Wise
10:23:42, 17/12/13

Any suggestions on how to change the minds of “owners” to to understand the importance of employees happiness and family?

5 Clint Golisch
11:58:06, 17/12/13

Dan,

What a great story. You always provide excellent articles with pertinent information. I agree that it is very important to support your team members. I work for a family owned business and I can tell you that our owners personally care about everyone one of people. It should be common practice to do what you can for your people and your customers. They are both important and should always be treated with dignity and respect.

Christmas and Holiday Blessings to you and your family,
Clint Golisch

6 Dan Oswald
15:59:45, 18/12/13

Donna,

I’m thrilled to hear that you’ve found a position with a business that values its employees and their families! I’m sure it makes your work much more rewarding and I agree that the company certainly benefits from taking this approach with its employees.

Merry Christmas!

Dan

7 Dan Oswald
16:02:55, 18/12/13

Melissa,

Thanks for the kind words about the article. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’ve watched the WestJet video multiple times and it has that impact every time. It’s truly inspirational.

Dan

8 Dan Oswald
16:05:46, 18/12/13

Wanda,

While I agree that companies do look beyond the bottom line to do things such as what WestJet did, I could also argue that WestJet will benefit economically from what they did–and I think that’s great! Millions of people have watched the video and I’m sure people are inclined to do business with them because of it. Who doesn’t want to do business with a company like that?

Dan

9 Dan Oswald
16:13:26, 18/12/13

Brenda,

I’m afraid that my initial reaction is that if you’re working for someone who “doesn’t get it” it’s hard to change a leopard’s spots. However, thinking optimistically, maybe you can demonstrate the value to the company. Both companies I wrote about had to have benefited from taking a very pro-family, pro-employee approach. Think about the positive publicity each received. Beyond that I’m not sure how you convince someone to change their thinking. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

Best,

Dan

10 Dan Oswald
16:16:49, 18/12/13

Clint,

It sounds like you’ve found a great place to work! Don’t ever take for granted working at a company that cares about its employees and their families. It is truly a blessing.

Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Dan

11 Jen @ Daycare In Demand
09:30:24, 23/12/13

Great post, Dan! A very important reminder that the customer *isn’t* always right – he or she is entitled to a fair exchange of service/value, but the right to abuse employees is not included in that. And it’s always a wonderful thing to know when your manager has your back; few things are better at building employee trust and loyalty. Merry Christmas to you and yours in TN!

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