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They Aren’t The Enemy, They’re Our Customers!

by David Brock on October 30th, 2012

We all know the saying, “Things would be great if it weren’t for those damned customers!”  It’s said in jest, but sometimes I get the feeling there is more truth than many would like to admit.

We walk into a store, try to get help, finally get someone who makes us feel like it’s such an imposition to take our money.  We call customer service, get transferred from agent to agent–seems no one really wants to help us solve the problem, until we get someone who sigh’s audibly, sounds tremendously put out and asks what our problem is.  Unfortunately, we all have too many stories of how we have been treated by the people and companies we buy things from.

Then there’s what I observe in talking to sales people.  Complaints about prospects and customers:  “They don’t know what they are doing?”  “They are so stupid,”  “They just are so slow,”  “They are unreasonable,”  “They are just trying to take advantage of us.”

Then there are the strategies–some to mislead or take advantage of the customer, anything to get the order.    Some to pressure the customer, and then there is FUD– Fear Uncertainty Doubt.  Negotiation strategies focused around win-lose.

Too often it seems the customer is viewed as the enemy, not the people that keep our companies in business, that keep us employed.  Too often, I encounter attitudes about customers that are, to borrow Brad Feld’s term, Thinly Disguised Contempt. (TDC)

It is impossible for us to talk about customer experience (at least in the positive sense) or becoming customer centric when we don’t respect our customers.  Whether we agree with them or not, whether they agree with us or not, some may be difficult to deal with, some may be the “dream customer,”  our words betray our attitudes and shape our behaviors.

It the customer is viewed as the opponent, someone to be beaten, we will never establish enduring relationships or earn their loyalty (then we complain about that).

If we want to grow in the market we have to understand customer needs.  But if we don’t respect the customer, we have no chance of engaging and truly understanding  — or they won’t want to talk.  And if, by some chance we did, our “hearing” would be colored by the lack of respect.

If we want to collaborate with customers, we have to respect them.  Collaboration demands mutual respect.

If we want customers to buy, we have to give them reason to buy — from us, we have to create value.  But our TDC is very transparent.  Customers get it and will seek other alternatives.

Too many worry about maximizing the value of the company on Wall Street and to shareholders.  Somehow, that becomes easy when you maximize the value of the company to customers.  When you recognize that without customers, we cease to exist.


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