Despite all the doom and gloom we’re hearing these days about corporate bankruptcies … recession … and the wholesale slashing and burning of thousands of jobs worldwide… not everyone is feeling the crunch.
More kitchen-table millionaires are emerging from the carnage than at any other period in history …
For those who understand the true nature of the gut-wrenching change our world is struggling through … there has never been a better time to enter the entrepreneurial fray with both guns blazing.
A whole new, Internet-enabled way of doing business is emerging … while the old-guard, industrial-age way of doing business is cracking at the seams.
You see it happening all around you. And nowhere is it more apparent than at the touch points of commerce … where consumers are rebelling against the old guard in ever increasing numbers.
Sales and profits at such companies will be pummeled into oblivion. Many will simply cease to exist as their customers and clients go running to a whole new breed of business that beats to an entirely different drummer.
One of the driving forces behind this consumer revolt is the fact that the world has become astonishingly more competitive.
Rapid advancements in communications and computing technology are making vertical integration unnecessary, thereby toppling barriers to business entry.
The trend is toward smaller, nimbler, horizontally integrated businesses.
Where in the past, transactional fiction meant a company sought to control as many of the elements of production and distribution as it possibly could … centralizing command … standardizing products … concentrating resources … and gobbling up capital to acquire other companies in an eternal quest for “economies of scale” … these things are in many cases no longer an advantage.
Now a guy in his basement can create a virtual corporation based almost entirely on outsourcing, often with little or no outside funding.
Invariably these small, horizontally-integrated businesses find it much easier to stay focused on what really matters — finding and keeping customers. While the large, vertically integrated dinosaurs worry about such things as shareholder value, mergers and acquisitions, and frantically struggle to rescue the bottom line.
Is it just me, or have you noticed the flagrant disregard for customers displayed by these old guard companies lately?
Fast Food Fools …
You see it when you get home from the local fast food joint and your order is all screwed up because the zit-faced kids who served you were too busy gabbing about their social lives to pay attention to what you ordered.
Even at the more expensive sit-down chains, your food is often cold, undercooked, or too salty. And when you complain to your server, instead of an apology you get a snarky look as she whisks your pink chicken back to the kitchen.
Hard Goods Hell …
You see it at the big hard goods chains where I recently went to buy some yard supplies …
As I walked around trying my hardest to look lost, I was dumbfounded by the way the store staff seemed to deliberately look busy and avoid making eye contact with me as I would draw near.
Finally I came across a couple of young “yard experts” idly chewing the fat. I said to myself “this is my chance” and I asked where I might find a good solution for grubs. One of the men looked away from his buddy just long enough to assure me that what I was looking for was somewhere in aisle 17. “Of course” I said, “How silly of me. Sorry to be such a nuisance.”
Communication Meltdown …
Has this ever happened to you? You open your mail and discover the phone company has made an error on your bill. So you muster the courage to phone them, knowing full well you’re likely to spend the next 15 minutes in voice mail jail and the 30 minutes after that dealing with some neuron-short-of-a-synapse moron who could argue with a signpost.
“Welcome to Ma Bell, your business is important to us.”
“For service in English press one”.
“To help us to serve you better, please input your phone number, including area code.”
“Thank you. You now have eighteen options.”
“To place a long-distance call billed to your calling card, place a collect call, or charge this call to another number, press one.” Who even makes phone calls anymore I’m wondering…
“For customer service, repair, or to inquire about our new rate plan, press two.”
“For satellite TV, press three.”
“If you’re moving and would like to cancel service at your current location, press four.”
Finally you mash you finger with surprising intensity into the “0” key and hear, “please hold for operator assistance.”
Then you wait on hold for at least 10 more minutes until you get a woman who sounds like she’s talking to you from the bottom of a 19-foot tall garbage can and with an accent so thick you can’t understand a word she’s saying.
You explain your problem and she starts jabbering until you finally realize she’s trying to tell you it’s not her department and she will have to transfer you. After 3 minutes of vile Muzak you hear a click and then a tone and that means you’ve been cut off.
Tech Support Nazis …
Or how about this one … you call up one of those technical support lines like I did recently after buying a new laptop. Some neophyte propeller-head receives my call and without even listening to my problem tells me a certain “diagnostic” must be performed before he can help me.
I’m suspicious but play along. Ten minutes later he exclaims there’s nothing wrong with my computer and he will have to terminate the call. I protest. He hangs up.
I don’t know about you, but every time I go through this kind of sh*t I feel like hunting the damn bean-counters down who thought the whole thing up and murdering the bastards, I really do.
What are these idiots thinking?
Are any of these scenarios a good way to get or keep customers? Is seething hatred for the selling organization a buying emotion? Why do so many companies behave this way?
I’ll tell you …
… Because precious few of the bozos running these big dumb companies know why they’re in business.
They think they’re in business to make a profit. That’s not what business is about. The purpose of business is to find and keep customers. Do that — and profits follow.
In this bold new Internet-enabled business environment, it’s no longer possible to hide from that fact. Selling is no longer a function within the company. It is THE function of the company. And everyone from the bean-counters to the back-office hacks to the frontline customer service staff should know it.
Sadly, that isn’t about to happen anytime soon in corporate America. Employees know their days are numbered as these large vertically integrated companies are forced to disintegrate. Many of them feel betrayed and resentful. And it shows.
Is there a marketing lesson here? I’m convinced there is …
What I’ve attempted to describe in this article is a major feeling of frustration shared by a large and growing number of consumers today.
People are sick, sore, and tired of crappy products and services … and infuriated by the discourteous, incompetent responses they get when they express their dissatisfaction.
They’re fed up with dealing with faceless corporations who treat them like powerless peons to be exploited and crapped upon.
And they absolutely respond to businesses run by somebody with the character to step out in front of them … communicate with them directly … and take personal responsibility for their satisfaction.
The very fact that you lead your company from the front, making yourself known and accessible has incredible selling power. Back that up with caring, efficient, and friendly customer service and you become practically unstoppable.
The shock value alone is priceless.
Until next time, Good Selling!