‘Without customers you would not exist’ – an open letter to all CEOs on behalf of customers everywhere

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Dear Chief Executive Officers (of all companies in all industries everywhere)

I am writing this letter on behalf of your customers – consumers; businesses; young; old; male; female. For centuries, people have purchased goods and services from those able to provide things that are needed. From food to clothes to technology to construction to medicines. Companies have and still are being created to fulfil the needs of customers all over the world.

The reason that your business exists is because it is providing products or services that we – your customers need/want. If we did not need or want your goods or services, you would not exist. No business can exist without customers – a statement of the blindingly obvious, but one that too many companies fail to acknowledge. I say that companies fail to acknowledge it, as this is the only explanation for the appalling experiences that customers have on a daily basis.

Over the last few years, you (CEOs of organisations giving us what we want) have recognised the opportunities afforded by new technology. The phenomenon that is the internet has revolutionised the way your businesses are able to interact with customers. During this time, our (the customer) expectations have changed. We, the customer, now know much more than we ever did before. We know as much about your products and services as your own employees do, yet you still continue to serve up experiences that fall way short of what we expect.

Only yesterday, I was advised by the employee of a company to visit a website to ‘place my order’. This employee refused to help me ‘over the phone’. The website he referred me to did not even exist. Unbelievable. Recently I interacted with a large financial services business. They claim they are helping consumers – their actions could not have been more contradictory.

Well the customer has had enough. Stop treating us like fools. Stop taking advantage of us. Stop telling us how important the customer is but doing nothing to demonstrate that you actually mean it. If you carry on giving us bad experiences, we will go and find our products and services somewhere else. Is your company guilty of any of the following?

  1. Poor value for money
  2. Delivering unacceptable customer service
  3. Failing to keep promises (unreliable)
  4. Poor quality
  5. Difficult to do business with

If you can honestly say you are 100% perfect with all of these – we will not believe you. What are you doing to get better at these things? Get your head out of the sand and wake up and smell the coffee. Our expectations will only get higher and higher as time goes on. You need to demonstrate to us that your company is serious about caring about us – caring about the things we need. We want the whole experience to be good. Consistently good. If you fail to give us good experiences, we will stop using your company. No customers = no company.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that your attention as CEO is focussed almost entirely on your shareholders. Good luck to you in continuing to obsess about share prices whilst your company fails to deliver the experiences that your customers want. All the creative accounting in the world will ultimately fall down when you realise that in focussing on shareholders you have ignored what is happening to customers.

When did you last experience what your customer experiences? When did you last sit at a checkout or deal with a  complaint over the phone or go to a meeting with a customer? It is not good enough to simply agree to go on ‘Undercover Boss’ – you need to be understanding what it is to be an employee and a customer continuously. You need to ensure that your leadership team do the same. Feel what we feel and you should understand what works and what doesn’t work.

You need to keep reminding yourself and your teams that they too are consumers. Do you like it when you have a bad experience with a company? So why is it acceptable for you to do to your customers what you do not want to happen to you?

We are sick and tired of having terrible experiences. I hope (on behalf of customers) that you take notice of the essence of this letter. I hope (on behalf of customers) that you really listen to what it, and your customers are saying. The big question is this – if you carry on doing what you are doing today, do you think you will still exist in 1 year, 5 years or ten years?

Yours Sincerely

Ian Golding

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