Question: A recent study by Bloomberg Businessweek showed that companies with the worst customer satisfaction had better performing stocks. How can we justify the cost of customer service?
I have two thoughts regarding this question, both of which can be attributed to Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My first thought is that Time Warner Cable and other companies that willfully subordinate customer service quality to profits are in violation of principles – natural laws that are timeless and self-evident – such as justice, fairness, integrity, honesty, service, quality, and excellence.
Cecil B. deMille observed of the principles contained in his monumental movie, The Ten Commandments, “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.” Profits that are earned in violation of principles – natural laws – are unsustainable. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Skilling, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernie Ebbers or Martha Stewart.
My second thought is rooted in Covey’s theory of Production (P)/Production Capability (PC) Balance. While the P/PC Balance theory may sound boring, it’s quite interesting – and quite true. Essentially, it’s the principle behind the popular Aesop’s fable of the goose and the golden egg. As you might recall, the greedy farmer, in his attempt to achieve great wealth quickly, killed the goose (PC) that laid the golden eggs (P). Alas, there were no reserves of golden eggs…only a dead goose.
Every business can take shortcuts (including customer service) in the near term and, as a result, look better financially. Over time, however, companies that violate principles and exploit customers (PC) in their myopic pursuit of profits (P) learn, as did the greedy farmer, that this strategy is unsustainable.
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Watch the 90-second book trailer.
Illustration by Aaron McKissen.