To say the current marketplace and how business is conducted has dramatically changed – for both company and consumer – is an undeniable claim. Today, ignoring customer input about wants and needs and not collaborating with that customer (and others) can quickly result in a virtual landslide that will cause mud and dirt to seep into every element of a company’s daily existence…and could potentially bury and/or destroy that company and its product and services.
Many books and publications are currently being written in an attempt to shed light on this phenomenon. More often than not, these authors erroneously point to the need for the deployment of a new method or technique for “marketing” to customers. Sadly, the underlying issues driving this shift – and the implications and impact – are far greater than simply the art, science and discipline of Marketing. This shift churns deep within the underbelly (psychology) of how we – spiritual beings having a human experience – interact and do business. We – as consumers – no longer accept or identify with insulting (and oftentimes insinuating) marketing catch phrases such as “target markets” or “capture rate.” As consumers, we now find ourselves mingling with groups of collective spirits who together make conscious, informed decisions about how, what, where, when, why, and from whom we buy products and services.
In his recent book Marketing 3.0, renowned marketing guru Phillip Kotler explains that today’s key “Marketing Concept” is VALUES… and that the new value proposition emphasizes “Functional, Emotional, and Spiritual.” Mr. Kotler goes on to share that the current “Age of Participation” requires COMMUNICATION and COLLABORATION – elements critical to CONNECTING and DEVELOPING (even CO-CREATING). Unlike in the past, consumers now choose to align with other consumers – ones who offer product and service opinions based on experience as well as on ecosystem values – oftentimes omitting companies from the buying equation.
So, if some companies continue to honestly believe – as Mr. Kelly so assuredly states – there is “no real reason to ask customers what they need/want – as they often don’t know “ – then these companies are not only neglecting their responsibility to more clearly understand customers and users…but, they’ve lost a fundamental understanding of their role in the broader social and ecological picture. If this is in fact the case, it places responsibility on product purchasers, consumers, and end-users to put pressure on these companies to engage and perform in a way that returns value – functional, emotional, and spiritual – back to those products and services.
CONSUMER ACTION OPTIONS
While we – as consumers – may at times feel powerless (or frustrated) when being imposed upon by large corporate conglomerates, we are not. Many options are available to constructively (and effectively) communicate our needs, frustrations, and angst. A few examples include:
- Identify your own specific need or purpose for purchasing an intended product by asking yourself:
- Will this product truly add value to or improve my life and well-being (and/or the life of a loved one);
- Does this product (and it’s production) align with my personal and moral beliefs (i.e Bangeledesh);
- Do I really NEED this product…or am I purchasing if for some other reason (i.e. the “Joneses” effect).
- Take direct action. As an enthusiastic value-driven (emotional, functional, and spiritual) consumer rights advocate, I stop at the end of each month to assess those products and/or services I’ve used and/or come in contact with throughout the month. If I find I’ve encountered a challenge with the use or deployment of a product, I jot down my experience – facts, details, front-end understanding, etc. After reviewing those notes, I determine the value of pursuing the encountered issue. At that point, I will either file my notes away (and not expend time and energy on the issue/item as it would result in no real value) or I research the product/service to unfold other user reviews/comments. If my personal experience aligns with and expands on comments made by others, I then research the company/provider to determine the right (or highest) level of management. After obtaining all the data needed, I craft a concise, fact-filled letter (3-4 paragraphs) – including reference to comments made by others – and state what action would be necessary from that individual and their organization to make me feel whole – on behalf of myself and others.I devote about 3-4 hours a month to this effort. Over the years, this process has worked amazingly well. I have learned a tremendous amount more about business operations, management attitudes, employee focus, and overall community commitment. As well, the resolution and outcomes have been extremely positive, productive and rewarding. More often than not, management responds (or forwards my letter to appropriate staff) in a timely fashion…and often provide honest, comprehensive details as to what might have caused or created the issue I conveyed.
- Close-in HUMILIATION (as last resort). While holding companies (and their management) accountable for products and services placed in the marketplace is absolutely essential, I question the current “social media” trend of public humiliation. As I scan many of these humiliating posts, I reflect on my past – one saturated with problematic, faulty, and dissatisfactory products and services. While my method shared above of taking DIRECT ACTION may seem time consuming (and a bit old fashioned), it seems only HUMAN (civil) to offer company representatives an opportunity to acknowledge the issue and respond. If after a month, however, a satisfactory response has not been forthcoming, I reach out into my vast network of friends, associates, family, etc. I simply state the situation and highly encourage them to communicate concerns they may have encounters or encourage them to choose to not purchase or use the particular company’s product(s). Many have commented on how this simple process actually has the power to “get things done” – and has the power to grab management’s attention to help them recognize and honor that a HUMAN BEING is connected to their product.
While asserting oneself to ensure one’s needs are met – and that the world is a better place – it is also inherently important that we each – and collectively – are accountable for the impact of our actions. Oftentimes, when interacting or dealing with a company, vendor or product, it is difficult to recognize and honor the fact that behind each of these products are people – just like us – that make up the company environment. When a company or product is subjected to expansive PUBLIC HUMILIATION, these people (employees, staff, contractors, etc.) oftentimes working behind the scenes are impacted – just like you and I would be if we were employed by (or representing) one of these companies. To me, that alone suggests and encourages one to focus on how these individuals might feel if their employer or company was widely publically humiliated and berated. Public display and humiliation not only compromises their position…but, causes them to not feel very good about their employer (remember customer service) – especially for a situation that may (or may not) be within their control.
Back in 1993, in his book The Practice of Management, famous management consultant Peter Drucker shared some comments that still seem quite relevant today: http://www.druckerinstitute.com/link/about-peter-drucker/
If we want to know what a business is, we have to start with its purpose. And the purpose must lie outside the business itself.
In fact, it must lie in society, since a business enterprise is an organ of society.
The customer is a foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. The customer alone gives employment. And it is to supply the customer that society entrusts wealth-producing resources to the business enterprise.
ACTION POINT: Find out what needs your customers want fulfilled today. Determine how well your products are meeting the needs of your customers. That is the purpose of business.
Maneuvering through non-user friendly product designs or dealing with non-functional products or services is frustrating. It is important, however, to remember that we – companies, employees, individuals, consumers, users – are all in this “humanness” thing together. The way in which we approach and “manage” these types of situations creates and determines the type of community, society, and world within which we cohabitate. Improving how we connect, interact and solve challenges needs to be at the top of the priority list.
The Write Resources, LLC™ – www.the-write-resources.com