Ethical is the new Social

The need for ethical businesses is strongly evolving as a priority in many industries. It started with the clothing (child labor, workers rights abuse, exploitation…etc) and food industry (use of genetically modified substances, mass farming…etc). This relatively new trend is now a business reality. Companies are to consider nurturing the ethical identity of their business and display honesty and integrity. In the era of internet, the need for honesty and integrity is amplified.

Google understood where this is all going and is going toward allowing users more control over their own information (allowing fake Google + profile nickname). On the European Commissions’ request, they also agreed to stop calling games ‘Free’ if they offer an In App purchase option. This is not going to be the end of it. We will see many of these cases with many other similar companies simply because these companies failed to establish a trust relationship with the majority of their customers.

Terms & Conditions dictatorship: Please Read and Agree to continue using or services.

Terms & Conditions ‘Dictatorship’ : Please Read and Agree to continue using our services.

Do Google, Apple and Facebook know what their customers’ dislike about their policies? It’s not wrong to think that these internet giants have all the tools and capabilities to figure it out and have in fact been fixing issues whenever they arise. The problem with having to be reactive is that it shows a misunderstanding of who the customer is and what he wants. Even worse, it could lead us to think that as long as the company makes profit, it will handle isolated issues when they are escalated but don’t care to address major identified concerns. Let’s be optimistic and hope that these companies haven’t listened to all their customers’ issues quite yet!

Social responsibility can be an extremely profitable marketing tactic but in this new era, a successful business is one that has an ethical responsibility. Ethical business is definitely tomorrows’ business.

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Evolveorvanish ‘market listener’ prize goes to…

Tim Hortons is the perfect example of an ever evolving company that pays close attention to its market and reinvents itself accordingly. From updating the menu to meet nutrition expectations to the use of mobile apps, the company can praise itself for being in a constant dialogue with its market… This is one company that understands the value of listening to its customers to evolve and assert leadership. Clearly, the market returns the favor!

Switch off the Sales mentality

Sales are not only the main source of revenue for companies but it is also a way to communicate about their strategy and their brand positioning.

Everyone agrees that the purpose of any business is to increase sales, but often the need to make more profit comes at a high cost. The price for reaching aggressive target revenues is losing focus on the customer as a central business partner. In the current business environment, customers tend to avoid doing business with sales’ focused businesses and are well aware of argumentation techniques. They even refer to sales conversations as ‘sales pitches’.

For your everyday paper cutting needs

For your everyday paper cutting needs

Imagine a salesman selling headphones to a person with a hearing disability to reach his sales’ target. A product not suited for the targeted audience. This transaction may seem like a usual sales transaction while it is actually a huge loss especially in the era of social media. The company pays a high cost from its reputation and brand positioning which in turn translates to mid and long term losses.

In the meantime, many companies advertise Customer Focus as a strategic pillar in their market approach while their sales strategy (including targets measurements, sales incentives, sales training…etc) pinpoints a clear sales focus with a minimal attention to satisfying the customers’ actual needs and expectations. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for a company who focuses on customers to set a target of 5 million satisfied loyal customers rather than an increase of 20% in sales? You would think it is, unfortunately, many of these companies still set revenue targets with a minor focus on customer specific metrics (satisfaction, engagement, loyalty, promotion, detraction…etc). When sales conversations are tailored to sell the product or service rather than listen to the customers’ needs, it is more likely leading to short term and opportunistic business relationships. Nevertheless, companies with a high sales focus still found a way to ensure mid to long term revenue by locking customers for a longer period of time. This is one reason a ‘commitment free’ market has emerged with an increasing demand for less commitment and more customer service.

Companies seeking profitable long term business relationships need to redefine their approach and train their staff to be advisors rather than sales people. Advisors are subject matter experts who help customers identify their needs by offering guidance rather than focusing on closing a deal. Visionary businesses’ need to have the courage to kill the sales switch and showcase their products’ and services real added value for customers. Altruism pays off in business…as well!

Customers need less choices, yes, less choices!

People have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions on a daily basis in their workplaces, homes and even in their spare time. Companies that are interested in leading their market in the decades to come are the ones which will make it easier for potential customers to make a fast yet we’ll informed purchase decision. There is space to create businesses specialized in filtering and selecting products and services for customers/businesses. Insurance and travel industries already understood this new trend and are offering filtering services.

Customer spending some 'quality time' in a spermarket

Customer spending some ‘quality time’ in a supermarket

Companies should focus on developing well researched products and services and simplify their offer. Of course, there are many types of customers with different buying behaviors but they will all agree that time is money and that the ideal product or service is one that is easy to find, easy to buy and easy to use. So it is time to offer less to create added value. Many businesses don’t realize that less is actually more!

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You need your angry customers!

How would  a business  go forward if  it doesn't know where it is ?

How would a business go forward if it doesn’t know where it stands ?

How can an organization evolve without continuous feedback from its market? Keeping in touch with your customer is a critical game changer. Companies who are continuously listening to their dissatisfied customers, specifically, are able to quickly adjust to their market, enhance their internal processes and even reinvent added value products or services. Not only will they be way ahead of the curve but they will also capture the largest market share. In the meantime, their competition may still be addressing immediate market needs, oblivious to complaints and negative feedback. To put it in the right context, customers’ negative feedback is the ‘make or break’ factor in any industry. One could be tempted to link success to negative feedback: food for thought…!

listen

It is necessary to include feedback collection tactics (ideally through automation) in all sales phases (especially post sales). This, paired with external market intelligence and a short decision hierarchy will produce continuous improvement and a consistent performance, a.k.a “Leadership”.

 

Respect your customer, say I can’t help you!

How many times you heard ‘the customer is always right’ ? you probably heard it, used it (or at least thought about using it) recently. Well, now, to the important question: do you really believe it? do you really believe that as a customer, you should always be right? what about if you represent your company, do you think that your customers should think that they are always right?. From both sides, it doesn’t seem like a realistic thing to accept. Not only this theory survives within reputable companies without being noticed for its irrelevancy; but it also set unrealistic customer expectations and establishes the wrong kind of relationship between companies and their customers.

The cost of setting the wrong expectations for customers goes beyond losing business and spending a significant amount on complaint management and settlements. In extreme cases, it would even require an important investment in marketing to handle brand reputation and legal fees to address lawsuits.

Customers became well informed, they have have a gazillion products and services at their fingertips. To win their business, a company needs to respect and value them by displaying integrity, honesty and a straight forward attitude. Setting false expectations in the current business environment is seen as disrespectful at best.

Whether you are a large organization or a small business, if you are still  setting your customers expectations at a level you can’t reach, your customers will not wait for you to evolve! Let’s just hope it is not too late.