When household names lie and cheat and the Customer Experience

When household names lie

I am not sure if it is because I am getting old that I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with the way some companies behave. Unfortunately I have a number of example. Everyone would know the first, the ‘News of the World’ and the way they broke the law as a matter of course with the phone hacking of people mobile phones.

Secondly we all know of the banks antics that have resulted in the financial crisis we are experiencing today. As if this wasn’t enough many of the same banks in the UK are now being forced to set aside £$ millions to pay back to Customer as they have mis-sold insurances policies to their Customers.

In fact the UK Banks are to invite up to 12 MILLION customers to claim compensation over mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI)! . This is just incredible and really makes you wonder about their management and what motivates them.

But fundamentally it makes me concerned about what is happening to the integrity of some businesses?

Another example comes from the once darling of Social media, Groupon. Let me provide the background first by referring to their own blog. When you read these extracts from a Groupon blog about the ‘Groupon Promise’ dated 10th February 2010: it makes a lot of sense and as I read it I think ‘this is a Customer Centric company’. They are saying all the right things, for example…

“As most companies get bigger, they introduce frustrating policies that show less trust in their customers. They hide undesirable policies behind legal jargon and set up endless obstacles to reach customer service. Customers are forced to subvert those policies to get what they need. We never want to be at war with our customers, so we’re taking it in the other direction. More freedom for our customers. More trust.

We’ve earned that [Customers] trust by strictly adhering to rules we set for choosing our merchant partners. Now, that last paragraph is usually the type of empty marketing BS that I loathe about companies, because anyone can get away with claiming it. Words mean nothing unless they’re backed up by action.

We believe that when a customer has a bad experience, companies pay for it sooner or later.

Contrast this with the recent report on the BBC from the UK’s regulator Office of Fair Trading (OFT) who “found widespread examples of breaches of consumer protection rules including pricing, advertising, refunds, unfair terms, and the diligence of its interactions with merchants”.

The BBC go on to report that the Office of Fair Trading have told Groupon they have 3 months to get their act together. Subsequently, Groupon have agreed to the following undertakings:

  • Ensuring that the advertised discount is accurate, honest and transparent
  • Conducting an accurate, honest and realistic assessment that a trader can offer the goods and services in the quantity and timeframe suggested
  • Clearly outlining any limitations on deals
  • Adequately substantiating any health and beauty product claims
  • Ensuring terms and conditions are fair
  • Applying the rules on refunds and cancellation rights for anyone buying online

The way I interpret this is to effectively say, ‘You mustn’t lie to your Customers’!

In ten years of working on Customer Experience never have I come across such a clear public case of ‘saying one thing and doing another’. The impact on Customer Retention and Customer Loyalty is enormous. The effect on their Brand is enormous! How can a company make such a public commitment in their ‘promise’ and then effectively do the opposite?

I could understand this if their management didn’t understand the issues of growth and how, when following an acquisition strategy, the fall out on Customer satisfaction can be a major issue as they struggle to keep up with demand. Their blog shows they do understand the issues and yet have ignored their own advice!

So what do we take from these examples? For those regular readers of our blog you will know we look at the emotional side of the Customer Experience. Let me for one moment look at the emotional side of the people running these organizations. I would suggest emotions like greed, envy and ambivalence to the Customer are prevalent. Never is the need for more ‘Corporate responsibility’ needed than it is today. Never has the need for employees to stand up for the Customer and say ‘no’ to their bosses been needed more than it is today. Never has the opportunity been so great for organisations that truly focus on the Customer to succeed. Let’s hope that light outweighs the dark, right conquers wrong and justice prevails.

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: 
@ColinShaw_CX