CXM: Does it Pay to Fool the Customer?

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

For many years, there has been an unwritten rule in business that while the customer may be king your number one objective should be to turn them into a pauper.

You don't learn about real business at business school. You learn about it on the mean streets, streets like Wall Street.

"To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money," Greg Smith states. Greg Smith used to be a senior manager with Goldman Sachs. But he resigned because among other things, "Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as "muppets.""

Contempt for the customer is nothing new. Here's how it works. Marketing, advertising and PR goes out and dazzles customers with statements like: "It's all about YOU; we do it for YOU; We love YOU; etc." The dazzled customer is then like a deer in the headlights, ready to be fleeced and exploited to the maximum. That's what 'real' business is supposed to be about. That's what the tough, seasoned managers will tell you as they puff on a cigar over a cognac.

Evan Newmark, a commentator for The Wall Street Journal, has disdain for Greg Smith. "In his piece," Newmark writes, "Mr. Smith urges Goldman to "make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money." But what if the truth was that if you always served the clients' first, you would never make any money? Or at best, a lot less?"

Ah, that's it, isn't it? Putting the customer first is not a way to maximize profit. There is a whole generation of business people out there who totally believe that if you really want to make BIG money, you must treat the customer like a muppet.

Learning Opportunities

If Newmark thinks Smith is naïve then the Bloomberg editors think he's a total idiot, an uber-muppet. If Goldman were to start behaving like Smith advises then according to Bloomberg, the Goldman bankers would be "spending their days delivering fresh flowers to elderly shut-ins and providing shelters for abandoned cats."

Putting the customers' interests first is, according to Bloomberg, the equivalent of doing "charity work." And anyway, as the Bloomberg smart guys in the room point out, "Goldman's clients are mostly very well-off." So, according to Bloomberg, if you're well-off you a kind of deserve to be taken for a ride.

I once overheard a conversation with a spammer and con artist. He was quite a religious guy, and needed to morally justify what he was doing. His basic logic was that he was very, very smart and that the people who fell for his tricks were very, very stupid (muppets). These people didn't deserve to have money in the first place. The spammer acquiring their money was a good thing for society because he could put it to more productive, intelligent use.

The muppets are getting organized and they're using the Web to do it. The muppets are getting better educated and they're using the Web. A million muppet newspapers and TV channels are being launched through social media. The rise of the Web is the rise of the muppets. The rise of social media is the revenge of the muppets.

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.