It never seems to fail. We all know companies who provide bad service or make decisions that will undoubtedly upset and anger customers — and we always wonder why. Yet, at the same time, many of us have certainly been in the meetings where those decisions are made. People say “well, this will anger customers, but we need to do it for reasons x, y or z.” It may be to grow revenue. Or it may be for technological reasons. Or it may be to stop customers from “getting away” with something. Or maybe it’s to provide more “consistent” customer service. Whatever it is, there’s always some business reason that lets the decision makers ignore the impact it will actually have.
But here’s the thing: such decisions almost always backfire. It may not be in the short term, but it will happen eventually. That’s because customers are the very root of any business, and creating policies that piss them off, no matter what reasons you put forth, will backfire in the long run — either in customers deserting you (and telling their friends/partners/colleagues) or in opening up a massive opportunity for competitors who treat customers correctly. Giving a consistent customer service response is meaningless if you have a lot fewer customers because they don’t like that experience.
Google has tried to prevent this sort of thing from happening with its mantra: “Don’t Be Evil” which gets the company lots of press coverage, even if it’s often misunderstood. However, it does force the company to think about things from the perspective of a customer: “If we do this, will we be perceived as ‘evil’?” And that’s a really useful exercise for many businesses to partake in before they make any changes that impact the customer experience.
Rather than rationalize away the customers’ thoughts with excuses about revenue, technology or customer service, any business decision needs to at least include some aspect of the decision makers sitting in the seat of the customer, and saying “how would I feel if I were just a customer?” And, if the answer is “not good” then it’s time to look for alternative answers.