Category Archives: Citizen anger

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. :-)



Why Are Companies Feeling “Entitled” to Their Past Revenue/Margins?

One of our major utility companies just filed a rate increase proposal to make up for lower energy demand (they’re big on conservation). Interesting logic and even more interesting expectation. Likewise, we’re hearing large banks say they have to “make up” for lost revenues after being stopped from collecting unsupported fees. In both cases, companies are considering current income/profitability as an “entitlement.


Does this strike you as decidedly un-capitalistic, even for a regulated utility?

Let’s be Charitable Toward Companies Trying to Be Customer-Centric

Over the holidays, several times I caught myself experiencing a knee-jerk negative reaction to less than customer-centric behavior by companies supposedly being among the customer-centric elite. For example, Southwest Airlines is vigorously opposing a proposed new FAA regulation mandating more rest for pilots between flights. Not very customer-friendly behavior, considering the significant percentage of fatal air crashes resulting from pilot fatigue.

But in this case and others, I found myself fighting against allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Southwest IS a very customer-centric company, overall. So is Verizon Wireless, especially against the backdrop of a customer-unfriendly industry. So is McDonalds, even while pushing back against proposed new food labeling laws. And won’t applying “purity tests” penalize such companies for making all the progress they’ve made?

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to forgive a Best Buy for preaching customer-centricity while they’re completely falling off the wagon.  But shouldn’t we (myself included) cut the relatively good actors some slack?

Please click through to our site for more about building customer-centric organizations.


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?”

The Emporer Toyota Has No Clothes (no more fig leaf of customer-centricity)

Toyota might have been a customer-centric company for parts of the 80s and 90s, or it may never have been customer-centric, which I now suspect.  Toyota thought that understanding what customers wanted to drive; converting that understanding to car design; and then superbly manufacturing cars that fit customers tastes; made it customer-centric – and bulletproof. But two fundamentally flawed asuumption have stripped Toyota of its body armour.  

First, Toyota got caught breathing its own fumes – believing its vaunted Toyota Production System was so scalable the company could grow at will. As stuck accelerator pedals and failing brake systems demonstrate, bad assumption. And these maladies follow a string of other problems that had already stripped Toyota of its top quality ranking.

But second, and I believe much more important long-term, Toyota failed to realize there’s more to customer-centricity than excellent products (which it can no longer claim). Research that David Mangen Ph.D. and I conducted several years ago identifies that customers now consider product excellence and service excellence two halves of the same coin. Without one, companies have neither. And even if it grasped this fundamental truth, Toyota failed to realize that “service” was about far more than fixing cars.

Going back 10-years, Toyota started failing to deliver one of the most important service components – honesty. I won’t go into the whole litany of Toyota subterfuge here. I’m saving it for a full article I’ll write once I’m confident all the major discoveries are discovered. But turns out Toyota has been hiding serious defects from customers and government agencies for years. The company’s behavior has been outright smarmy, going back to 2002 when it tried to pawn off sludge collection in engines to drivers failing to change oil. And even after the U.S. DOT forced them to extend engine warranties to 8 years, they tried to obstruct customer filings. And today, they continue obfuscating like mad. Fortunately, the DOT and perhaps even more so the Japanese Ministry of Transportation, are up to their tricks.

I’ve read many comments from Toyota loyalists (most of whom don’t yet know what Toyota’s been doing, unless they’re reading the excellent investigative reporting in the New York Times), to the effect that “Toyota will snap right back.” From mechanical problems, perhaps. But from deeceptive business practices, I seriously doubt it.

And as a sidebar for process folks reading, Toyota has provided living proof that neither the Toyota Production System nor Toyota’s Lean culture created a customer-centric company – one that puts honesty and integrity with customers on a pedestal, towering above business instincts to put profits first – especially when that means putting customer lives at risk.

Which are the “15 Most Hated Companies in America?” just released this list of abusers – not only of customers but of stakeholders, employees and the general public. While the selection process factored in data from Consumer Reports, JD Power, the MSN/Zogby poll, Vanno, and the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index plus indexes reflecting public perception, obviously some subjectivity crept in, but the list resonates very strongly with me.

 I’ve included links to this list and two other relevant compilations at the end of the post, but before sending you off I’d like to offer several observations.

  • Customer relations played a key role:  12 of the 15 companies were cited for poor customer relations.
  • So did employee relations:  the same 12 of 15 companies were cited for poor employee relations. While 12 out of 12 is not a bulletproof statistic, the inference is too strong to ignore.
  • Stakeholder approval was on a par:  10 of the 15 were cited for providing poor shareholder returns, but three of the 15 are private companies. What I believe is so important here is that the Ross School’s ACSI has clearly demonstrated that companies with high CSAT numbers perform financially better than competitors with standard or lower scores.

I also cross-referenced this list against MS Money’s “Customer Service Hall of Shame” nominees for 2009. Three companies made both lists, but the “Hall of Shame” list focused heavily on financial services whereas the “15 most hated” included only Citi.

What struck me after reviewing both lists is the 22 separate companies named all operating “inside-out” by putting company interests ahead of company interests. In fact, several of these outfits are frequently cited for showing the futility of trying to operate inside-out in today’s marketplace. In contrast, when I reviewed MS Money’s “10 Companies That Treat You Right” selections, all 10 are commonly cited as examples of how “Outside-In” thinking produces successful customer and business outcomes both. For more information on Outside-In visit:

Here are the links:

15 Most Hated Companies:

2009 Customer Service Hall of Shame:    

10 Companies That Treat Your Right: