What is the word that best describes or points out the fundamental context/orientation that underpins business as usual? It occurs to me that the word is “taking”. Taking as much as possible from the customers. Taking as much as possible from employees. Taking as much as possible from suppliers, Taking as much as possible from the community. Taking as much as possible from the planet…..
From the context of taking you get personalised emails and direct mail that does not show up as personal. From this context of taking you get the incessant focus on replacing human customer service with self-service and the switch from skilled staff to unskilled and cheaper staff. From this context of taking you get the focus on upselling, x-selling, and increasing wallet share.
I have yet to find any meaningful and enduring relationships that are based on taking. Where the context of taking is present all that shows up is taking. And people coming up with ways of protecting themselves from being taken. This is not the case for giving.
Where actions flow from a context of giving then it is possible to arrive at symbiotic relationships. Symbiotic relationships are ones where each party brings something of value to the other such that both benefit. It occurs to me that the strongest relationships tend to be symbiotic. Symbiotic relationships start with one party giving – giving something of genuine value to the other party.
Why are so many companies struggling to generate meaningful-enduring relationships with their customers despite their investments in all kind of customer stuff? Why is it that a genuine shift towards a customer centred orientation is so difficult? I say it is difficult because all this effort and investment arises from a context of taking. Whilst this may not be obvious to the people in the company it is obvious to customers – our bodies can tell the difference between those who care for us and those who do not.
Allow me to share an example two example with you. Examples that will illustrate the difference between taking and giving. Let’s start by looking at the taking orientation.
This week I brought a training course. To make the sale happen the supplier offered a 10% discount amounting to £100 and threw in some extras. Given that it is summer and there is less demand for the course it makes perfect sense for the supplier. And it showed up as an attractive discount for me given that I was going to buy the course with or without the discount. Did this discount build any gratitude, any relationship, any loyalty? No. I am clear that the discount served the needs and interests of the supplier.
Are there any companies that excel at giving? It occurs to me that giffgaff, a mobile network provider, is one such company. Earlier this month I got a email from giffgaff letting me know that the best tariff for me was the £7.50 tariff. By providing me this information giffgaff gave me the choice of switching from the £10 tariff. I didn’t switch tariffs. Nonetheless, I am delighted with giffgaff – I am delighted that giffgaff is practicing what it preaches, that the folks at giffgaff are living their values.
Let’s take a moment to look at my experience upon receiving the email. First, surprise. Second, delight. Third, gratitude. Fourth, satisfaction in having chosen giffgaff. Fifth, loyalty validated and cemented. Sixth – advocacy as in writing this post. Put differently, giving by giffgaff has called forth giving by me. I should point out that it is not just me. My wife has been telling a similar story to her circle of friends and colleagues.
The lesson? I say genuine-meaningful-enduring relationships are built upon mutual giving. I say you cannot build such relationships from a context of taking – the context that underpins business as usual. I say that as human beings we are always on the lookout for people and organisations that are trustworthy and on our side – looking after our best interest.
It occurs to me that if the people in companies pursuing customer experience, customer-centricity, even customer obsession, were to focus on giving and not clever ways of taking then they would have more success in fostering customers who are genuinely loyal.
What do you say?