It’s Time to Turn Your Company Upside Down

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When companies describe their management hierarchy, you usually get a pretty cool diagram that ranks employees by who they report to. The ones with the power and the compensation are always listed on top… in order of importance .

Employee Hierarchy

It’s not a surprise. This puts the customer at the bottom of the hierarchy. Those employees who deal with prospects and customers on a daily basis are typically the lowest paid, inexperienced, overworked and unimportant human resources in the company. A promotion moves a customer service representative away from the customer and into a management role where issues are escalated to the manager. This has to happen because employees don’t have the trust, authority nor the power to make the changes necessary to fulfill the customers’ expectations.

Have you ever thought about this as a customer? You’re importance is ranked below that of the lowliest employee. Employees with the lowest pay, shortest tenure and minimal chances of promotion or opportunity. Nice. No wonder why customers are revolting!

Friend Kyle Lacy recently reviewed Jason Baer’s book, Convince and Convert:

In the words of Jason, social media is now at the forefront of the customer experience. The thoughts and ideas of brands are no longer crafted in the board room (which many people would like to believe) but created in our living rooms, restaurants, gathering places, and keyboards.

When you read about Zappos success, Tony Hsieh continues to tout customer service and how his customer service representatives are empowered to help the customer. Although they are at the bottom of the compensation hierarchy, Zappos has effectively reversed the power hierarchy.

It’s time that all companies ditched the atypical reporting and power structure and turned it upside down. Customers should be put at the top of your hierarchy, your front-line employees should be empowered and trusted to make the right decisions for the customer. Your managers, directors and leaders should be listening to your customer-facing employees and developing long-term strategies based on their input.

Customer Hierarchy

The more I work for companies, the more I recognize that the greatest leaders are the ones who utilize resources effectively, remove roadblocks, empower employees, and truly are committed to every customer. Every struggling board room I visit is full of pompous narcissists who think they were the key to their own success, that they deserve to be where they are, and that they know better than the customer.

One wonderful byproduct of this recession is that we’re seeing these folks drop like flies. How does your Customer Hierarchy look in your business? Are they at the top or the bottom of the power chain? Think about it.


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    Nice post Doug. Food for thought in this day and age of overpaid CEOs thinking the company is their to pad their own wallets. The customer is king — not the other way around.

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    When I worked for one of the large wireless carriers, it always amazed me how they were always instituting policies that forced the sales/service people to be able to do LESS for the customer. And they wonder why retention is so low. Businesses, regardless of their traditional “product”, need to realize that they are all in the service industry.

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