Today’s post is by Chuck Wall, author of Customer CEO: How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Here’s Chuck…
Tired of hearing brands blather on about how much they really care about their customers? Wouldn’t it be a lot more honest if they would just admit their real passion is to separate people from as much of their money as possible for stuff they don’t really need?
Maybe that’s a bridge too far, but there’s clearly something different happening in this social era. In Customer CEO: How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers, I write about what I call the Power of Purpose. This customer power confronts every business leader with a new reality; that today’s customer is thirsting to do business with brands they can really believe and believe in.
In my customer research work over the years, I have heard people say “Just do the right thing” more times than I can count. What customers are saying is they want to share values with the companies they do business with. These values have nothing to do with price. They are talking about being honest, showing integrity, providing fair treatment, demonstrating a caring attitude, being loyal, and doing it consistently.
Let’s be frank: for many companies facing the complexities of modern business, it is too much work to create, teach, and live values. They often cut corners and look the other way. Leadership either refuses to lead with values or tolerates poor values in their management ranks. Many customer-facing employees are left in their jobs far too long. The customer experience becomes a bad joke. This is why there is such a huge disconnect between the flawed advertising spewing forth from these brands; it hardly resembles the reality the customer encounters on a daily basis.
Customers are hungry for a different approach. They want to buy the why before the what. They want to do business with companies they can believe in. This means a brand must be crystal clear in defining their purpose. It should be spelled out as plainly and as often as possible.
Clarity around values also speaks volumes to employees. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos said, “A funny thing happened when we actually communicated [our purpose] to our employees. We found that suddenly employees were a lot more passionate about the company, a lot more engaged, and when customers called they could sense the personality at the other end of the phone wasn’t there just for a paycheck.”
The world has experienced far too many Ponzi, Enron, and Madoff schemes. Your business, in fact every business, can be a force for good. There are big problems in the world that our political systems have failed to solve. Business can begin to shoulder a greater role in being the solution, not the problem.
One example is Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company. In 2011, on the two biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the company bought a full-page ad in the New York Times exclaiming, “Don’t buy this jacket!” It went on to say, “Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything.” The company was publicly embracing the Power of Purpose by shouting out its own set of values.
Patagonia has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. In 2004, founder and sole owner Yvon Chouinard wrote, “At Patagonia, we are dedicated to abundance. We don’t want to grow larger, but want to remain lean and quick. We want to make the best clothes and make them so they will last a long, long time. Our idea is to make the best product so you can consume less and consume better.”
You will profit by embracing the Power of Purpose and transforming your own culture if you first recognize that customer cynicism is born from corporate insincerity and dishonesty. You have to be willing to ask yourself and your people what you really believe in. Do you want to change things at your company? If so, what do you want to change? And don’t kid yourself. This is not some jargon-ridden theoretical exercise. It is personal. If you aren’t willing to examine yourself, you are wasting your time. Transformation can only happen if it starts at the top. Be willing to give yourself and your team the time to really work on this. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is purpose.
– Chuck Wall is Founder & CEO of Customer CEO Consulting, a customer insight, engagement and marketing firm. Portions of this article are adapted from his new book, Customer CEO: How to Profit from the Power of Your Customers. (CLICK HERE to get your copy)