Good Jobs Strategy = Happier Employees = Better Customer Service

Last week, I met with a hospitality client to discuss employee satisfaction related to their customer service goals. It made me think of this blog post from Joyce Maroney at the Workforce Institute. Joyce’s comments and Zeynep Ton’s reinforce the axiom that happy employees, adequately allocated, make for satisfied customers and higher revenues.

In a recent New York Times Magazine article entitled “Thinking Outside the (Big) Box,” Adam Davidson (of NPR’s “Planet Money) talks about an excellent customer service experience he had at Ikea recently when he went shopping for a closet system. He found the staff to be both available and helpful. He was surprised, given that he’d had a prior experience years ago that wasn’t so hot, so he decided to investigate what had changed. He spoke with an executive at Ikea and learned the following:
“This wasn’t a fluke. A couple of days later, Rob Olson, the C.F.O. of Ikea U.S., told me that since my last visit, the company had invested in a new (Kronos) workforce-management system that reminded me of much of Ton’s thesis. The software helps the company to better distribute workers throughout the store so that there are more of them in the areas where people have the most questions, like closets.”

The “Ton” referred to above is Zeynep Ton, a business professor at M.I.T. and author of the new book “The Good Jobs Strategy.” In the text (available next week), Ton argues that paying workers more and treating them better is better for the bottom line. In her research for the book, Ton learned that even low-cost retailers can provide good jobs for their employees while keeping costs low for their customers.

In the low-cost retail sector, she found that the best employers operated on 4 fundamental principles:

  • They offered fewer choices to their customers
  • They cross-trained their employees
  • They standardize processes while empowering employees to do the right thing for the customer.
  • They “operate with slack”; i.e., they staff at levels that enable employees to spend time with customers.

That last item is what workforce management software enables, providing employers with accurate data and predictive analytics about the staffing levels required to deliver a great customer experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about Zeynep Ton’s research:

If you want to discuss “operating with slack” or other important workforce management questions, you can reach Jim at

As the Vice President of Sales for Retail and Healthcare at Project Genetics, Jim helps companies simplify their H.C.M. skill set, consulting and implementing software from U.K.G., a global leader in H.C.M. solutions. He has vast experience in sales, operations, and marketing with U.K.G. (Ultimate Kronos Group), J.D.A., Brinker International, FreshPoint, and J. Alexander’s.

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