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A thought on where organizations go wrong

Degrees (220395) writes | more than 5 years ago

User Journal 11

For a while now, I've been looking at the behavior of organizations to see if I can identify where it all went wrong. The vendor I have the most to do with is a huge glaring example. Slashdot itself repeatedly gets it wrong. The thievery at hospitals, ripoffs in the mortgage industry, the slow self destruction of the USA automobile industry - it all seems to point to the abandonment of the company motto:

"It's good to be a (insert name) customer".

For a while now, I've been looking at the behavior of organizations to see if I can identify where it all went wrong. The vendor I have the most to do with is a huge glaring example. Slashdot itself repeatedly gets it wrong. The thievery at hospitals, ripoffs in the mortgage industry, the slow self destruction of the USA automobile industry - it all seems to point to the abandonment of the company motto:

"It's good to be a (insert name) customer".

If that were the standard by which organizational decisions were made, we wouldn't have all this trouble.

The Novell company motto seems to be "It sucks to be a Novell customer (and we're OK with that)". They do some very good technology, but insist on overpricing it (because it is NOT GOOD to be a Novell customer) and then wonder how they are going to pay the support bill for a product with 1% market penetration.

The Slashdot company motto seems to be "We'll write the code the way we want to, and you all can piss off". Yes, as a matter of fact, I liked the front page to have the one line messages status text and link to all my pending messages. Posting this JE took far more work to get to the 'create a journal' link than in the past. But I don't expect it to change, because "It sucks to be a Slashdot content provider (and we're OK with that)".

Golden West started it's wholesale ripoff of people by handing out first ARM mortgages, then NINJA mortgages. By that time, their company motto had become "It's stupid to be a Golden West customer (but we're OK with that)". It's worth noting that the banking crises did NOT affect most of the small town local banks who don't view their customers as prey.

When was the last time someone bought a new Chevrolet and said to themselves "Well, at least I didn't get stuck with a Toyota!" (because "It's sad to be a bailout car customer (but we're OK with that)").

There are countless organizations where the company motto is "It's good to be a (insert name) shareholder (but we play our customers for fools, and we're OK with that)".

It's few and far between, but:

"It's good to be a Costco customer".
"It's good to be an Amazon.com customer".
"It's good to be a Netflix customer".
"It's good to be an Apple customer".

Why is it so hard for organizations to fight the decisions that transform themselves into a "It sucks to be a (our name) customer"?

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Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

turg (19864) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673035)

I think most companies these days are overly focused on the short term and on strictly measurable outcomes. Charging X customers $Y more will make use $XY more money, right now. Spending money on being nice to our customers is something where we can't really measure the return on that investment separate from anything else and, in any case, once we start working on this it will take a while for it to really pay off.

Re:Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673267)

I think most companies these days are overly focused on the short term and on strictly measurable outcomes.

Replace "companies" with "CEOs" and i agree. Each CEO wants to make their mark and move on. Gone are the Lee Iococas who care about what they do. Unless you started the business, you probably don't care.

Degrees examples show this.

[I Googled for information, so it must be correct. :)]

Good
----
Costco founders "James Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman" current CEO "Jim Sinegal"
Amazon.com founder "Jeff Bezos" current CEO "Jeff Bezos"
Netflix founders "Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings" current CEO "Reed Hastings "
Apple founders "Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak" current CEO "Steve Jobs"

Bad
---
Novell founder "Ray Noorda" current CEO "Ronald Hovsepian"
Slashdot founders "Rob Malda and Jeff Bates" current CEO "Robert Neumeister, Jr." (SourceForge)
Golden West founded in 1952 (not sure by who, probably not the same as the current CEO) current CEO "Mr. George Strandell"
Chevrolet founders "Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant" current CEO "Fritz Henderson" (GM)

So, Degrees, i don't think it's as bad as you say that they don;t care about the customer. They don't even about the business, just about their own (short term) profits, as Turg pointed out.

Re:Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27674265)

Certainly there is the ownership aspect - you are 100% right that original owners care about their customers and their business. Once the person / people who built the place leave, the new tenants aren't as likely to respect the original legacy.

And certainly some of the CEO's don't even understand the business. Apple was run by a PepsiCo exec for a while (with very bad results). So yes, if the CEO doesn't understand the business, the customers are probably doomed.

But I don't want to say it's only the CEO that is at fault. The CEO has people to advise him/her. Abandoning the "It's good to be a (our name) customer" is a collaborative failure.

Re:Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

ces (119879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27799255)

Well for a counter example how about someone like Proctor and Gamble? The founders have nothing to do with the company anymore.

Caterpillar would be another example of a well run company where the founders are no longer involved.

Re:Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27803007)

Good point.

So it isn't the rule. Perhaps it is a strongly contributing factor?

Re:Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27803447)

Proctor and Gamble does seem to take the "It's good to be a P&G customer" idea to heart. Although a lot of their success is due to marketing (selling the idea 'good to be our customer') it does appear that they have a strong drive to innovate.

Caterpillar has a dealer network. This is smart because if Cat makes a decision that isn't good for the customer, those independent dealers will tell Cat the what-for. The dealer depends on Cat to do well by the customer, or else they all lose.

Re:Measurability & short-term thinking (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27674117)

Yes - I agree. I also think that if the question "How about charging our customers $Y more? We'd make an extra $XY" were countered with "How does this make it good to be a (our company) customer?" we'd see less of the short term thinking. I actually think that price increases for R&D are OK - IF (and only if) the R&D delivers.

I don't think they care (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27673285)

After all, it's probably a money-losing venture anyway for them. Still, it was interesting to think about for a moment.

Re:I don't think they care (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27674295)

Sure - if it's all annoyance with zero reward - I would probably give up caring too. But I do think that (most) bad situations can be turned around.

Chevrolet (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27677963)

They have commercials now with how they will cover customer's payments for a year if they lose their job. The ads aren't all that interesting but if you get to be in the same room with my wife when comes on t.v. the entertainment value is extremely high. I've feared for our t.v. when she started getting really worked up about the fact that they are doing this with our money. She swears we will never buy from GM which always makes me laugh because we quit buying American years ago.

Re:Chevrolet (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27682155)

I hadn't thought about that - but it makes perfect sense. Now, if they were doing that with their own money, then "It's good to be a Chevrolet customer" would have a ring of truth to it. BTW, I believe Hyundai or Kia is making the same offer, and it ISN'T out of us tax payers' wallets. I think the smartest thing Ford did lately was to walk away from the government bailout.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. Next time I see those ads, I'll ask my wife what she thinks of that great idea Chevrolet came up with. ;-)

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