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Doing good for customers

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South Africa

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Doing good for customers is something that is inherently right.

I admire purpose-driven companies.  They have a strong commitment to a noble cause that helps them avoid the pitfalls of short-termism and significantly do good for society in some way.

Whatever a company’s purpose, I believe that those with integrity ensure that the golden thread of doing good for society weaves all the way through to doing good for each of one’s customers.  My passion is helping companies on this journey.

Some may say that their company purpose already fully encompasses what good they can do for their customers.  For example, a supplier of energy-efficient lightbulbs may have the view that the good they are doing for the planet is equal to the good they are doing for their customers.  I submit to you that this is a rather limited view.  If the energy-efficient lightbulb supplier is not proactively looking out for their customers’ bests interests, they are not yet doing good for their customers.

What type of activities are doing good for customers?

·       Explaining a product so clearly that they are fully aware of what it won’t do for them where they are likely to assume it will.  For example, the health booster drops need to be taking consistently for 3 months before you will see results.

·       Based on logical triggers that the company could build into their offering, remind customers of actions they need to take or avoid in order to get the best out of the product (even when doing so seems to reduce the company’s profit).  For example, the credit card company reminds their clients of the amount due for payment sufficient notice that the client can pay on time without any interest being charged.  My credit card company sadly sends out reminders but only a day or two late so despite my immediate payment, they still get to charge me interest.  This is not in my best interest.  It is in theirs.

·       Similar to the above, based on customer data, inform customers of possible errors they might be making.  For example, Amazon so nicely asked me the other day while I was in the process of ordering a new book: Because you ordered that same book previously, are you sure you wish to proceed?  This is in my best interest, not directly in their’s.

·       Again, based on customer data, a company can provide useful information to their customers.  The baby products company knows when you bought that cot and rattle.  Being able then to estimate the age of that child, they could provide relevant valuable information and links to other services for free.  Furthermore, a few years later they might say: “If you still have that cot you bought and want to declutter, bring it in or ask us to collect it.  We’d love to give it to the Orphaned Babies Charity”.

·       Budget proportionately to both new business and existing business.  A software company I have had dealings with fails to do so.  They provide two different telephone numbers for their Sales contact centre and Complaints contact centre.  Call the Sales number, and you get answered within seconds.  Call the Complaints line and you are left waiting and waiting with regular recorded lies that you are a “valued client” and your “call is important to us” interspersed by awful music and irritating pitches about the latest software offerings.  Surely if this company looked out for its customers’ best interests, complaints calls would be attended to with equal promptness as sales calls.

·       Avoid letting customers pay for things they don’t need.  Telecommunications, banking and insurance companies often sell bundled products (a core product packaged together with other so-called value-added products which bulk up the price).  Over time, however, the supplier can see from their data,  which customers are not using the added products.  Imagine receiving a call or message from one of these providers saying: We notice you haven’t used XYZ product/benefit/feature for the past year (or x-period).  If you no longer want it, please let us know.  We can remove it and reduce your monthly fees by y-amount.

These are some of many examples.

Cynics might argue that if companies always did what was in their customers’ best interests they would never make any profit.  I beg to differ.  When a company openly demonstrates their care for my best interests, especially when it is at the expense of their short-term gain, it generates a response from me that is most definitely in the company’s best long-term interest.  Think of the Amazon example.  If you have had this experience, you may agree that it creates a positive affinity with Amazon to the extent that far outweighs their potential loss in profit on that one item.

Bear in mind, however, that action that is in a customer’s best interests does not mean a company always does whatever the customer asks for.  Sometimes customers want all the gain without taking their share of responsibility; or want preferential treatment that would cause unfair treatment of other customers; or want to take advantage of the company.  In instances like these, companies skilled at doing good for their customers know how to explain why they are doing what’s right even though it doesn’t feel pleasurable for the customer at that time. (As an aside, customers who try to take advantage of a company are, in terms of customer psychology, often expressing a disguised deeper message that a company should heed).

I have had the privilege of working with numerous firms who are striving to do good for society aligned to their stated purpose.  These firms have realised that despite their best intentions, they aren’t always doing good for their customers.  They have benefited greatly from an independent review providing them with insightful reports on areas of excellence and opportunities for improvement.

Seeing that doing good for customers results increased customer loyalty and employee engagement, it is not only inherently right, it is good business practice, too.

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