My Apple Customer Experience: how it turned sour and why I am not buying Apple products

Let’s set the context for this conversation

Before I dive into the heart of this post it is important that I take the time to set the context so that you can really listen to what I am speaking.  The taken for granted automatic way of existence for human beings can be captured by the following:

  • Right/Wrong – I am right, you are wrong;
  • Dominate/Avoid domination – I want to dominate you and I will resist your efforts to dominate me;
  • Justification/Invalidation – I will justify ‘myself’ and invalidate ‘you’;
  • Looking good/avoiding looking bad – I will strive to look good in your eyes and go to considerable lengths to avoid looking bad.

This is not the context for my writing this post – absolutely not. I am not seeking to look good.  I am not stating that I am right and someone else is wrong…… I simply wish to share my story and stand with you.

Some personal stuff that gives you an insight into me

Allow me to share two personal incidents with you that may help you to make sense of this post and the stand that I am taking.

Between the ages of sixteen and twenty two when I was in college and university I would go out frequently to nightclubs.  This was something that I did with my friends – the vast majority of who were male and my age.  I noticed something that disturbed me.  My friends treated the ‘other sex’ present in the nightclub as ‘prey’ to be hunted / toyed with or simply as ‘meat’.  I simply could not understand this.  Even today, I can remember thinking that the young women were someone’s daughter, someone’s sister.  And I remember asking myself the question: “How would I want my sister to be treated if she was at that night club?”  So at the nightclub I danced and sometimes I made friends – certainly I got plenty of compliments on my dancing.  My friends ‘hunted’ and I left them to it once I had shared my perspective on the situation – why I was refusing to play the game that so attracted to them.

I happened to be working and staying in Amsterdam – famous for its red light district.  I remember that the people I was working with got very excited about going to the Bannenbar (that is what I think it was called – it was a long time ago).  I was until I arrived at the front door and found out what went on inside.  Being young and male, one part of me was keen to go inside and see the spectacle (something I had never seen before).  The other part of me put the following to me: “It is the people who pay who make this kind of stuff possible.  Is this the kind of stuff that you want to see in the world?  Are you 100% sure that the people performing the acts have consented freely without ‘oppression’ to do this stuff?”  I could not be 100% sure and so I turned back much to the puzzlement of my work colleagues.

So you could say that I have a certain disposition when it comes to my fellow human beings and what I am willing and not willing to do.  I am not saying it is right nor am I saying it is wrong.  I am not saying it is good nor am I saying it is wrong.  I am simply saying that I noticed that which is so for me when it comes to what I am and am not prepared to do.

My relationship with Apple – customer and advocate until now

Here is who things stood until relatively recently as regards my ‘relationship’ with Apple:

  • I have written positively about Steve Jobs and Apple in this very blog;
  • I use an Apple iPhone 4 and have thoroughly enjoyed using it;
  • My brother has an Apple iPhone 4S and I played a big part in shaping his decision to buy the Apple iPhone – raving about how great it is;
  • I bought Apple iPods for my wife and children;
  • I influenced my nephews to buy Apple iPods and iPhones;
  • I enjoy using my brother-in-law’s Apple iPad;
  • I had set aside money to buy Apple’s iPad 3 expecting it to be released around the middle of this year – this is something me and my family have been looking forward to.

Why did I buy, use and recommend Apple products?   THe following quote from Jean-Dominique Bauby says it all for me and my relationship with Apple as it used to be:

“I need to feel strongly, to love and to admire, just as desperately as I need to breathe.” Jean-Dominique Bauby

All of that changed over the last 10 days or so.  Let’s look into that.

Why I Will Not Be Buying Apple Products

Now, every time I see and use my Apple iPhone4 I don’t love or admire Apple.  And I do not love and admire myself for buying Apple products!  Why not?  Because I care about my fellow human beings.  I care about my ‘brothers and sisters’) who are assembling these products.  Here is something that I read (amongst a lot of other stuff I read over the last two weeks) that has touched me deeply and turned delight into disgust and shame at being an Apple customer:

“On the other side of the world, a young girl is also swiping those screens. In fact, every day, during her 12+ hour shifts, six days a week, she repetitively swipes tens of thousands of them. She spends those hours inhaling n-hexane, a potent neurotoxin used to clean iPhone glass, because it dries a few seconds faster than a safe alternative. After just a few years on the line, she will be fired because the neurological damage from the n-hexane and the repetitive stress injuries to her wrists and hands make her unable to continue performing up to standard.”

Last weekend I went out to buy smartphones for my wife and my daughter.  I did not buy Apple.  I simply could not buy Apple.  I no longer see ‘beauty’ when I look at Apple products.  I see the ‘ugliness’ of human misery and the ‘spilling of blood’ for the sake of a few extra dollars of profit per Apple product.

Please understand that I am not making Apple wrong for this nor am I saying that Apple is the only company that contributes to this state of affairs.  I am not even saying this is ‘wrong’ – from a zen perspective everything is perfect just as it is and just as it is not.    So what am I saying?  I am saying that whilst Apple can play this game of ‘profits through human misery’ I have chosen to bring my part in that game to an end.  It is a game that does not leave me moved, touched, inspired, uplifted.  That is simply what is so for me.  If you are OK to continue to play the game that Apple has constructed and perpetuates (either through indifference, accident or deliberation) then that is perfectly ok – each of us has his/her own conscience to live with.

An invitation to put your humanity into action

If on the other hand you are more like more in that you do not want blood on your hands.  Or that you are moved, touched and inspired by the possibility of Apple being a brand that is great as it makes great products AND is a stand for the best of humanity (our caring, our reverence for life) then I invite you to sign the petition or learn more here.

I thank you for listening to my speaking.  And if you are one of ‘brothers and sisters’ in the Foxconn factories know that I am thinking of you and I care for you.  I know that I am not alone – there are many more of us who care about you and your humanity else there would be no articles by columnists, no posts by bloggers and no petitions.

Customer loyalty: disgust, elevation and the categorical imperative

CRM has failed to deliver customer loyalty, is Social CRM headed the same way?

In Bob Thompson’s latest post he asserts  that CRM failed to deliver the primary objective of CRM: customer loyalty.  Bob goes on to say that he doubts that Social CRM will cultivate customer loyalty despite all the promise and hype that surrounds it.  Why?  Because the focus of CRM has been value extraction and not value creation as illustrated by the following definition of CRM in an IBM paper:

“CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship.”

Bob is saying that in his world he is a person what wants to be treated as a person yet organisations embedded in the CRM mindset are likely to view him as a “lead” or a “deal” or an “incident”.  Bob is pointing out that as a person he wants an “I-Thou” relationship and not an “I-It” relationship:  Bob wants to be treated as a fellow human being, treated with dignity worthy of a fellow human being, not just an economic object to be managed by the organisation for its purposes.  It looks like Lior Arussy agrees with him.

Disgust and delight: tale of two customer experiences

Lior Arussy, in his latest post, writes: “I HATE BEING TAKEN FOR GRANTED. I HATE WHEN THE RELATIONSHIP IS ONE WAY AND ONLY WORK WHEN IT IS GOOD FOR THE COMPANY. I ESPECIALLY HATE BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE AND NOT BEING NOTIFIED ABOUT MORE SUITABLE (AND AFFORDABLE) PLANS. I VIEW THAT AS A BREACH OF TRUST. “

In contrast, Elizabeth Glagowski is delighted with the way an eBay seller has treated her, so much so that she titled her post “Customer Service Blunder Leads to Holiday Cheer”.  Why?  Because the eBay seller responed within an hour, apologised profusely for sending over the wrong T-shirt, promised to send the right one straight away, told her to keep the wrong T-shirt as it is similar to the right one, and he told her to pick another item in a certain price range and offered to send that to her free of charge to compensate her for her troubles.

What is going on here?  Why is Lior so upset and Elizabeth so delighted that she is being an advocate for Paul the eBay Seller?  We are in the realm of human emotions and particularly the emotions of disgust and elevation.

Disgust: its role in social relationships and the moral order

In “Wired to be Inspired” Jonathan Haidt writes:

“..when my colleagues and I actually asked people in several countries to list the things they thought were disgusting, we repeatedly found that most people men­tioned social offenses, such as hypocrisy, racism, cruelty, and betrayal”.

“When we find social actions disgusting, they indicate to us that the person who commit­ted them is in some way morally defective. In this light, we seem to place human actions on a vertical dimension that runs from our conception of absolute good (God) above, to absolute evil (the Devil) below.”

“Social disgust can then be understood as the emotional reaction people have to witness­ing others moving “down,” or exhibiting their lower, baser, less God-like nature. Human beings feel revolted by moral depravity, and this revulsion is akin to the revulsion they feel toward rotten food and cockroaches. In this way, dis­gust helps us form groups, reject devi­ants, and build a moral community.”

Read this article on how some insurance companies who have bought into the McKinsey system are generating bumper profits by deliberately causing delays and hardships for customers – especially when they are at their most vulnerable.  How does this make you feel as a human being?  Are you disgusted?  If you are wondering about the power of disgust then think about the News International phone hacking scandal.  News International had successfully muffled the politicians, the police force, the information commissioner etc for years.  Yet, when the public became aware that a dead schoolgirls (Milly Dowler) phone had been hacked the public disgust meant that the politicians had to take action.

Elevation: its role in social relationships and the moral order

Have you ever been moved, touched, inspired by seeing, reading about, or hearing of a stranger doing a good deed for another stranger?  If you are like me then you might even have noticed tears streaming down your face combined with a strong desire to do good deeds and be a better person.  Why are human beings so powerfully affected by the sight of one stranger helping another stranger?   Here is what Jonathan Haidt has to say on the matter:

“I have defined elevation as a warm, uplifting feeling that people experience when they see unexpected acts of human good­ness, kindness, courage, or compassion. It makes a person want to help others and to become a better person himself or herself.”

“Most people don’t want to rape, steal, and kill. What they really want is to live in a moral community where people treat each other well, and in which they can satisfy their needs for love, productive work, and a sense of belonging to groups of which they are proud. We get a visceral sense that we do not live in such a moral world when we see people behave in petty, cruel, or selfish ways. But when we see a stranger perform a simple act of kindness for another stranger, it gives us a thrilling sense that maybe we do live in such a world.”

“The most commonly cited circum­stances that caused elevation involved seeing someone else give help or aid to a person who was poor or sick, or stranded in a difficult situation”

“Love and a desire for affilia­tion appear to be a common human response to witnessing saints and saintly deeds, or even to hearing about them second-hand. If disgust is a negative emotion that strengthens ego bound­aries and defenses against a morally reprehensible other, then elevation is its opposite—a desire to associate with those who are morally admirable.”

What’s the lesson?

If you want to cultivate customer loyalty (an emotional bond) then heed the words of Immanuel Kant:“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time, as an end”

If that is difficult to understand then imagine that the Customer is present inside in your business – she is sitting on your shoulder.  Is she left disgusted or elevated by how you are thinking, what you are doing and your motivations behind your actions?

A final thought

For as long as the Customer is simply a means to an end, and greed and fear are the driving forces behind Customer initiatives, companies will fail to cultivate customer loyalty in the social sense of a heartfelt allegiance.