Serving The Customer vs. Serving The Company

By October 13, 2015E-Commerce Marketing

Today there is a strong debate occurring over what is more important in management theory: outcome control or behavior control. Do companies want their employees serving the customer or serving the company? Outcome control (OC) is based on the theory that companies reward employees for pleasing the customer via documentation and monitoring of what these employees produce (e.g. new accounts or repeat business). Behavior control (BC) is based on the concept of companies rewarding employees for how they please the managers (e.g. techniques or following expense account rules). These two differing philosophies in management can come into direct opposition when enacted simultaneously. Neither are absolutely correct as both philosophies have their flaws. It is up to the company to choose what works best for them.

The OC theory requires employees to treat the customer as a king. The employer rewards the sales force for concrete tasks from which the employer can derive value. OC is generally measured through actionable metrics, which are based on the direct interactions between the salesperson and the customer.  This system benefits the autonomous salesperson that requires little direct management and is entrusted by the management team to make the right decisions.  The key to creating a successful OC environment is to create a variable compensation structure that is linked to the additional time and effort of the salesperson.

In the BC theory, the manager is the king and the salesperson is evaluated on behalf of individual values and what he or she extrinsically adds to the job. These values are usually surface-deep and are not great predictors of success. The key to a successful BC system is to consistently involve or inform the manager on all deliverables and achievements. The system’s success rests on the ability of the manager to train and mold his or her sales force. That is primarily due to the fact that compensation is usually fixed and the incentive for the sales force rests on continuing the standard performance versus going above and beyond.

In the modern sales force context, neither system is 100 percent correct. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Each system can work better across a wide variety of organizations. Some employers prefer one or the other. Some prefer neither and instead tend to tread the middle ground, borrowing the best aspects from each particular version. The main takeaway is each company needs a system that aligns itself with the priorities of the employees. There is no cookie cutter formula and each company must weigh the individual benefits and drawbacks.

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