Category Archives: Citizen-centric

Do Sellers Need to Act in the Public Interest?


Putting “should” considerations aside, on the hole, do you believe acting contrary to public interest really hurts sellers? This question is really about buyers and whether they still care.

I can think of several examples that might support both “yes” and “no” answers. Looking back just a week, it doesn’t appear the Walmart job action affected much – in part because it didn’t attract enough workers. But on the flip side, Costco financially outperforms Walmart, and I believe very positive worker attitude driven by above industry scale wages and benefits has much to do with that (not that many people know that Costco pays better, we just see the positive effects while shopping). Another example that sticks in my mind is Target stupidly contributing to a PAC opposing marriage equality. The public outcry was intense and forced Target to give to gay rights causes and start carrying merchandise such as same-sex greeting cards.

The Target and Walmart examples give contradictory answers, and I’d like your observations and input.

How Would You React to a Black Friday Strike Against Walmart?


Judging by the number of class action employee suits filed against it (many won by plaintiffs), Walmart may be the most abusive major employer in the U.S. Walmart store workers are planning a one-day “strike” on Black Friday to protest benefits and working conditions (for international members, “Black Friday” is the day after our Thursday Thanksgiving holiday when Christmas shopping “officially” starts, and it’s the heaviest retail sales day of the year). Because Walmart is 100% non-union, participation levels are anyone’s guess, but the organizers are promising to have pickets outside stores, and they predict enough people won’t show up for work to cripple operations.

Please put on your own personal shopping hat and shed your business identity. As a shopper, how will you react if this action proceeds as planned? What impact will it have on your view of Walmart? Please comment generously. This is book research. :-)



Should Politicians Regard Voters as Customers – Why So or Why Not?

Next year, U.S. political candidates will bombard U.S. voters with unprecedented numbers of political messages emanating from an unprecedented number of communication sources. These politicians and their communicators arm themselves with scads of data slicing and dicing the voting populace into a myriad of overlapping cells – and even individual households. These data tell them where and where not to campaign, depending on demographics, psychographics, past voting patterns and the like. And they will even help candidates decide what to say – in person, on the stump.

Nonetheless, political communication is almost all single message “push.” Candidates and their handlers craft messages to appeal to the entire mass populace – not little cells, never mind individuals. Just like marketers do, and we all know most marketers aren’t the most customer-friendly types. And when the winners get to wherever they’re going, they’re driven by percentages, not people – and by the loudest voices, never the most thoughtful. This is one reason there’s such a politician – voter gap, with voters constantly unhappy they “didn’t get what they voted for” – because politicians don’t understand what they really want.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful instead if politicians actually practiced the two-way communication they brag about every time they say, “I listen to my constituents.” Yeah, right. And that the common interests of diverse but reasoned voices drove their votes, as should happen in a democracy. You know – becoming voter-centric by hearing all voices instead of counting the loudest, and by putting themselves in voter shoes and actually walking the voters’ walk.

Or would it be all that wonderful?

The Media DID NOT Just Miss a Moment of Customer Triumph

Last week I lamented the lack of media coverage of consumer debit card fee pushback, and I should have been more specific and said coverage of the consumers who are pushing back, not the banks themselves. No matter, because events proved me wrong, and I’m greatly encouraged by consumer-focused stories that emerged as soon as I said there weren’t any :-).

A spate of pieces appeared last week, covering not only the consumer side but small business as well leaving large banks in droves. AP even chronicled the efforts of a part-time nanny in DC who on her own started an online petition against debit card fees – which attracted 150,000 “signatures.” Another interesting data element – more consumers joined US credit unions in October than during all last year.

Has anyone else encountered interesting media reports?

The Media Just Missed a Moment of Customer Triumph

We can count on the media to trumpet tales of business sticking it to customers – like the recent spate of disgusting debit card fees big banks imposed to offset losses from the federally mandated lower transfer fees. But we absolutely can’t count on them trumpeting customers sticking it to business – like fierce customer forcing banks to roll back these abhorrent fees as fast as they imposed them.

Although we’ll have to celebrate in media silence, we should all bow our heads with respect for what consumers just accomplished. But could this be the turning point in bank – consumer relations many of us have been anticipating?

What do you think?

Have consumers finally reached a breaking point?

Many (including myself) have prematurely predicted that consumers would express their anger at big banks with their feet – by fleeing to smaller banks and credit unions less inclined to gouge them. Having been wrong before, I won’t make another prediction. But the number of market and industry watchers making the prediction is rapidly swelling.

So I’ll ask for sage opinions from all reading – “Have increased debit card fees, mortgage fraud and other customer abuses finally brought U.S. consumers at least to the tipping point? And what’s the future of big bank – consumer relations?”

Do we pay enough attention to emergency processes involving customers?

I confess – I often don’t. But responding to emergencies requires thoroughly thought out process that mobilizes the right resources the right way at the right time. If you don’t plan out responses beforehand you get BP in the gulf coast or Toyota stomping all over its meticulously crafted brand.

But these disasters didn’t trigger me writing this. Instead, it was a superbly well-executed emergency response that still has me shaking my head in appreciation.

In the U.S., we have many, many people contracting salmonella from eating eggs. First, one egg-producing company had to recall about 350 million eggs. Then, a second producer had to recall 150 million more. This second producer supplied Costco, where we buy eggs.
Within scant hours of the recall, I received a well-produced robo-call (so well-produced I didn’t hang up) telling me I’d purchased eggs at Costco that could be carrying salmonella and had been recalled. I was instructed not to use the eggs but bring them back to a store for a full refund.

Can you imagine identifying a gazillion egg purchasers with their phone numbers from membership records and calling them in very little time with a cut-through” message? Yes, good intent towards customers is ultimately responsible. But executing the plan took exceptionally well predefined process and following it to a tee. Kudos to Costco, which I frequently include in my short list of Outside-In, customer first companies.

How about sharing some examples, good or bad, including the process or lack thereof apparently behind them?

You Can Unclench Your Fists―The Big Banks Aren’t Bulletproof

Have you been clenching your fists because our large banks got bailed out and are getting away scot-free with being shamelessly greedy?  Are you gnashing your teeth because they appear to be going right back to their old ways? And are you starting to think they have so much control they can get away with total customer-insensitivity?

You can relax. They got a reprieve, but it’s only temporary.

Round two of their troubles is, as they say in the movies, “coming soon.”

·         Thanks in part to consumer (voter) pressure, the Consumer Financial Protection Act looks likely not just good to pass―but withe sharp teeth.

·         Thanks again to consumer pressure, regulation of derivatives and the other “exotic” instruments is also on the way.

·         Even compensation regulation for banks not holding TARP money is a possibility.

·         All the large banks have loan portfolios overstuffed with bad commercial loans, which will start hammering them in 2010.

·         “Too big to fail” legislation to prevent future bailouts without exposing our financial system to major disruption from major failure is also on track.

·         Reinstatement of the separation of investment banks from commercial banks is getting support from none other than Goldman Sachs (which would love less investment banking competition).

·         The shame the large banks are bringing on themselves has cut into the percentage of graduate students prepping for Wall Street. A whole lotta young people don’t want to be associated with these bad actors. Would you like to go to a party and respond to the “what do you do?” question by saying, “I’m in investment banking?”

As good as things look right now for major banks, the combined factors above will give many consumers (and small businesses) the pound of flesh they’re after. And through a combination of raw, consumer political power and legislative guilt for letting banks trash our economy, the balance of power is swinging in the other direction. That will be hard to reverse.

Best of all, consumers are rearing up in other markets as well, including influencing the health care debate. Customer empowerment is real and long-term. Companies that go Outside-In and adopt the credo of, “Adding new value to customers is the only sustainable manner of adding new value to the company,” will thrive in all this. So many companies continuing to resist customer empowerment will help them thrive.

And I also boldly predict that at least one large bank, perhaps from the second tier, will get customer religion and go Outside-In. They’ll be welcomed by customers with open arms.