Customer loyalty: disgust, elevation and the categorical imperative


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CRM has failed to deliver customer loyalty, is Social CRM headed the same way?

In Bob Thompson’s latest post he asserts that CRM failed to deliver the primary objective of CRM: customer loyalty. Bob goes on to say that he doubts that Social CRM will cultivate customer loyalty despite all the promise and hype that surrounds it. Why? Because the focus of CRM has been value extraction and not value creation as illustrated by the following definition of CRM in an IBM paper:

“CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship.”

Bob is saying that in his world he is a person what wants to be treated as a person yet organisations embedded in the CRM mindset are likely to view him as a “lead” or a “deal” or an “incident”. Bob is pointing out that as a person he wants an “I-Thou” relationship and not an “I-It” relationship: Bob wants to be treated as a fellow human being, treated with dignity worthy of a fellow human being, not just an economic object to be managed by the organisation for its purposes. It looks like Lior Arussy agrees with him.

Disgust and delight: tale of two customer experiences


In contrast, Elizabeth Glagowski is delighted with the way an eBay seller has treated her, so much so that she titled her post “Customer Service Blunder Leads to Holiday Cheer”. Why? Because the eBay seller responed within an hour, apologised profusely for sending over the wrong T-shirt, promised to send the right one straight away, told her to keep the wrong T-shirt as it is similar to the right one, and he told her to pick another item in a certain price range and offered to send that to her free of charge to compensate her for her troubles.

What is going on here? Why is Lior so upset and Elizabeth so delighted that she is being an advocate for Paul the eBay Seller? We are in the realm of human emotions and particularly the emotions of disgust and elevation.

Disgust: its role in social relationships and the moral order

In “Wired to be Inspired” Jonathan Haidt writes:

“..when my colleagues and I actually asked people in several countries to list the things they thought were disgusting, we repeatedly found that most people men­tioned social offenses, such as hypocrisy, racism, cruelty, and betrayal”.

“When we ?nd social actions disgusting, they indicate to us that the person who commit­ted them is in some way morally defective. In this light, we seem to place human actions on a vertical dimension that runs from our conception of absolute good (God) above, to absolute evil (the Devil) below.”

“Social disgust can then be understood as the emotional reaction people have to witness­ing others moving “down,” or exhibiting their lower, baser, less God-like nature. Human beings feel revolted by moral depravity, and this revulsion is akin to the revulsion they feel toward rotten food and cockroaches. In this way, dis­gust helps us form groups, reject devi­ants, and build a moral community.”

Read this article on how some insurance companies who have bought into the McKinsey system are generating bumper profits by deliberately causing delays and hardships for customers – especially when they are at their most vulnerable. How does this make you feel as a human being? Are you disgusted? If you are wondering about the power of disgust then think about the News International phone hacking scandal. News International had successfully muffled the politicians, the police force, the information commissioner etc for years. Yet, when the public became aware that a dead schoolgirls (Milly Dowler) phone had been hacked the public disgust meant that the politicians had to take action.

Elevation: its role in social relationships and the moral order

Have you ever been moved, touched, inspired by seeing, reading about, or hearing of a stranger doing a good deed for another stranger? If you are like me then you might even have noticed tears streaming down your face combined with a strong desire to do good deeds and be a better person. Why are human beings so powerfully affected by the sight of one stranger helping another stranger? Here is what Jonathan Haidt has to say on the matter:

“I have de?ned elevation as a warm, uplifting feeling that people experience when they see unexpected acts of human good­ness, kindness, courage, or compassion. It makes a person want to help others and to become a better person himself or herself.”

“Most people don’t want to rape, steal, and kill. What they really want is to live in a moral community where people treat each other well, and in which they can satisfy their needs for love, productive work, and a sense of belonging to groups of which they are proud. We get a visceral sense that we do not live in such a moral world when we see people behave in petty, cruel, or selfish ways. But when we see a stranger perform a simple act of kindness for another stranger, it gives us a thrilling sense that maybe we do live in such a world.”

“The most commonly cited circum­stances that caused elevation involved seeing someone else give help or aid to a person who was poor or sick, or stranded in a difficult situation”

“Love and a desire for af?lia­tion appear to be a common human response to witnessing saints and saintly deeds, or even to hearing about them second-hand. If disgust is a negative emotion that strengthens ego bound­aries and defenses against a morally reprehensible other, then elevation is its opposite—a desire to associate with those who are morally admirable.”

What’s the lesson?

If you want to cultivate customer loyalty (an emotional bond) then heed the words of Immanuel Kant:“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time, as an end”

If that is difficult to understand then imagine that the Customer is present inside in your business – she is sitting on your shoulder. Is she left disgusted or elevated by how you are thinking, what you are doing and your motivations behind your actions?

A final thought

For as long as the Customer is simply a means to an end, and greed and fear are the driving forces behind Customer initiatives, companies will fail to cultivate customer loyalty in the social sense of a heartfelt allegiance.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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