Musings on customer-centricity, customer experience and social: not your usual perspective


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In this post I want to share my take on three items of news that caught my attention recently: Stephen Hester’s insights into the banking industry; Apple’s iOS6 maps fiasco; and the Madrid barman who has became a hero in Spain.

The culture of greed is not limited to the banking industry, it is an inherent feature of ‘business as usual’

Stephen Hester the CEO of the bailed out Royal Bank of Scotland gave a speech on rebuilding banking at the London School of Economics on Monday. This quote in particular got my attention as it gets to the heart of the matter:

We cannot afford to just fix Libor, to just fix money laundering controls, or to just fix the way we market our products. We have to address the root cause of the industry’s failings…”

What are the root causes of the banking industry’s failings? Let’s listen to what Mr Hester said:

“It is possible to look at the many scandals that have hit banking in recent years and see them as individual episodes of bad judgment or wrong behaviours….. In fact, I think it’s more accurate to say that most of them are related to one big scandal: banks have simply not been good enough servants of their customers in the recent past.”

“The banking industry in the decade preceding the crisis was focused on income, it expanded too fast, prioritised sales over service and failed to properly balance the interests of its customers and shareholders with those of its managers.”

I say that the push for sales, income and profits is central to many companies, many industries, many economies and is in fact central to ‘business as usual’. And within the context of ‘business as usual’ where ‘bad profits’ are pursued because it is too much work to come up with products, services, experiences that create genuine value for customers (and thus generate ‘good profits’) authentic customer-centricity cannot take root and flourish. So the challenge is culture change. Not just culture change at the organisational level, nor at the industry level, nor at the business level. No, the culture change has to happen at the societal level.

Apple: Tim Cook, iOS6 and the Maps application

I notice that Apple has been under pressure and Tim Cook has done the right thing by apologising. Within that context, the following got my attention:

“At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

How many CEOs can get up and say that with conviction? How many CEOs would be believed? Which tells me that the number of companies that are committed to making world-class products that deliver the best experience possible for customers is rare. Which kind of explains why Apple shows up as Apple as opposed to the multitude of other companies.

The other thing that occurs to me is that making that apology is a wise move: as human beings we tend to ‘forgive’ those that apologise. And I suspect that the Maps saga will not dent the Apple brand provided that it is just a one-off occurrence.

What can we learn about social from the Madrid barman?

You can say that I am not a fan of social. Why? It occurs to me that is so much chatter on social and so little understanding of social. Yes, the human being is social being. Yet, that does not mean that we can collapse social with socializing. Social is more than idle chit chat over social media. Social is more than meeting up with friends at a cafe or restaurant. Social is more than meeting up with folks that you like (or are interesting in) for drinks after the end of the conference day. Social is more than sticking in some social technologies in the work place.

In its fullest/truest sense social is ‘care and concern for our fellow human beings. It is about moving from a place of ‘exclusion to inclusion’. It is about collapsing the distance from ‘me’ and ‘you’ and becoming ‘us’. It is putting into practice our humanity – the best of our humanity. It is being up for and delighting in the well being of our fellow human beings. And acting when that well-being is at stake.

With that in mind I share the following story about the Spanish barman that put his well-being at stake to protect demonstrators. And here is the video:

It occurs to me that if you watch this video, really watch this video, then you will get a flesh+blood for what social is, what social takes, and why social is so powerful. And if you do not get it then it occurs to me that you can do all that you want on social media and it matters not, you are not social, you are just being selfish through social channels.

And finally

Without genuine care for our customers all the customer talk is just that talk. And genuine care for our customers means a concern for humanity. To paraphrase the words of the Spanish barman, “There is excessive focus on short-term profits. I am for companies being profitable, but above the profitability, there is humanity. Let’s make enduring profits by playing the long-term game of people-profits-planet.”

That is what I say, what do you say?

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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