On Values, Hypocrisy and Customer Experience


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My friend Joel once pointed me to this incredible article “Do You Really Have the Balls to Change Our Food System.” The article provides a reality check for people who think shopping at Farmer’s Markets, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s will make a difference in the way our food is grown and produced. As someone who values the experiences those environments offer, I found the article pretty sobering — not just because what the writer is saying about our food system – but because she suggests that if we really embody the values we claim to have, we must be prepared to pay dearly for them. This may require us to work harder, sacrifice conveniences, lose some perks, change our habits, and even pay more for what we consume.

This hasn’t been the American way for quite some time now!

In a day and age where consumers have more power than ever before, we be should jumping for joy at our newfound ability to stand up, voice our opinions and join with others to introduce positive social and economic change. At the same time, doing so does require that we stand up, first. This requires the displacement of apathy and the exertion of effort. It also requires us to take on an increased level of exposure. With our newfound power comes responsibility. So, we have to ask ourselves whether we are willing to do our part.

But I AM active. I’m socially responsible. Really?

But the keyword here is “KNOWINGLY,” isn’t it?

Chances are, you can easily get both of the items above from any local store or national retail chain. It’s it’s the knowing will either force us to change our behavior or defy the values we claim to hold. Sometimes not knowing is just easier for us. NOT knowing gives us permission to continue to take the path of least resistance. Not knowing lets us complacently consume based on convenience, rather than by listening to our conscience. Not knowing lets us continue in relative comfort, requiring no sacrifice. Truth however, often demands change by searing the conscience.

With regard to your values, what do you DO know?

First things first. For starters, simply ASK YOURSELF whether you are living your values based on what you ALREADY know – by judging what’s “in the bag.” For example, let’s say you are totally against pornography because you feel it exploits women. Do you buy goods from purveyors of porn? Have you really checked lately? It’s everywhere. Ouch.

Think about other purchases that trigger your conscience – maybe there are environmental, labor practice or cultural or other concerns that you see being violated where you shop. Do you buy from companies that support charities, religious or political leanings you are against? Do you invest in companies that violate your values? Do you purchase from companies that have policies you don’t agree with? Do you knowingly consume products that have unhealthy or unethically produced ingredients in them?

When a brand supports exploitation, or promotes content that you find offensive, does that really impact the way you shop on a day-to-day basis? Is it a short-term impact or long-term? Maybe you are overwhelmed…and believe it’s too hard to live your values this way, because the offenses are too numerous to count.

When you are offended, what do you DO?

This isn’t a preaching session here… if anything I’m processing as I write this article, because I’m struggling too. As I type this on my MacBook Pro, checking my iPhone for a text, here’s at least one immediate issue that renders me STUCK — between the desire to stage a boycott and the desire to curl up into a ball. Sound familiar?

Where and when do you draw the line? When a brand assaults you, do you grumble privately? Do you boycott brands and flog them publicly in social media? Do you call, write, post about the injustice or wrong you see? Do you rally others to the cause? It’s your right to exercise this freedom of speech and free market behavior… but do you exercise it? Do you believe change is beyond you? How do you choose your battles? What motivates you to ACT? When is enough really enough?

Do you believe that your voice and behavior make a difference?

In an era of social media and rapid change, these are important questions to ask – and an essential ones for each one of us to answer. Unfortunately, while we should be chomping at the bit to be heard, many of us roll over. Many more of us are more content and comfortable in our ignorance. However, as we proceed in this manner, we unwittingly tell others our values do not matter. We unwittingly create markets for brands that exploit the values we claim to have and, in doing so, we leave room for nothing but exploitation and ridicule. We create markets for what offends us by telling companies that our values just really don’t matter. And by turning a blind eye, we also encourage others around us to do the same.

What’s so amazing is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Today, the power of one can be magnified by millions, if we only would do our best to really live out our values rather than rolling over. This applies to all of us. In an era where many people feel they are not represented well by politicians and lawmakers — perhaps the most empowering thing we can do is reclaim our power as individuals – and as consumers by standing up for deeply held convictions. I believe, when our consciences are seared, this is a natural outcome because light, truth and knowledge will compel us to act with courage and righteous determination –> and hopefully with love and respect for others, as well.

What brands reflect your values?

We all have different priorities and values as well as different levels of tolerance for the values of others. I don’t want to debate those values here. However, as a CX (customer experience) practitioner, I am keenly interested in the connection between human values and the brands humans love. For example, Dove‘s Campaign for Real Beauty has brought the brand attention for its celebration of the female form regardless of weight, age or body type. Whole Foods voluntarily labels all GMO foods as a service to its customers. These are examples of values many people celebrate. These are examples of values that enhance experiences and forge bonds with people.

So, I’ll ask you, reader – maybe easier questions to answer. What values to you celebrate? What Brands seem to embody those values? Is your answer based on fact and research or merely a high level impression? At your core, are you skeptical that Companies really live their values? Have you ever considered, as a percentage of your spending, how much business you give to brands that support the values you claim to embrace?

Hypocrisy goes both ways

As consumers, we often have little tolerance for poor experience and hypocrisy with Brands… but hypocrisy goes both ways. For example – we demand that brands embrace our values — but we can’t always have goods CHEAPER that are BETTER (quality, sustainability, feature rich) at the same time. Sacrifices are required on our part. Our demands have a price tag. Unfortunately, many people are not interested in making those sacrifices — especially in a down economy.

Again, I’m preaching to myself. The values component of our consumption is something that each of us, as consumers – and even as citizens – must begin to weigh. As PEOPLE like us begin to do so, perhaps that’s when we will begin to stop exploiting people, grow and eat healthier food, think more humanely, take care of our fellow man. Funny thing is, if our consciences are seared, change won’t require extensive campaigning, government or legislative intervention — because as we stand together, we can collectively eradicate the market for the detestable and hidden things that shadow our world.

Why does this relate to Customer Experience, you ask? It’s because, when the detestable is gone, experiences become better for everyone – not just the consumer.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Leigh Durst
Leigh (Duncan) Durst is the principal of Live Path. She is a 19 year veteran in business, operations and customer strategy, ecommerce, digital and social media. As an active consultant, writer, speaker and teacher, she is an advocate for creating remarkable customer experiences that harness digital media and improving business outcomes.


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