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Your business is centered on customers? I don’t believe you…

“I’ve been living in the Thank You Economy since a day sometime around 1995, when a customer came into my dad’s liquor store and said, “I just bought a bottle of Lindemans Chardonnay for $5.99, but I got your $4.99 coupon (later) in the mail. Can you honor it? I’ve got the receipt.” The store manager working on the floor at the time replied, “No.” I looked up from where I was on my knees dusting the shelves and saw the guy’s eyes widen as he said, “Are you serious?” The manager said, “No, no, you have to buy more to get it at $4.99.” As the man left, I went over to the manager and said, “That guy will never come back. I was wrong about that; he did come back. He came back a couple of months later – to tell us he would never shop with us again.”

GARY VAYNERCHUK ‘The Thank You Economy’ (2011)

Thus begins Gary Vaynerchuk’s excellent new book. Take a look at the excerpt again. What should that store manager have done? Should he have lost a dollar and accepted the coupon that was late? Most of you, if you have any iota of enlightenment about customers, will say yes. But I don’t believe you.

I don’t believe you because everywhere I look businesses are still designed to do things that are shrewd rather than wise. Saving the dollar is shrewd; saving the lifetime customer is wise. I believe you know the difference. I don’t believe you act on that knowledge.

Be a customer. Walk into a shop and try to return something that turned out to be defective. The chances are the shop will try to blame the defect on something YOU did. Or try to say you’ve just changed your mind about what you bought, and look at the expressions. You will be shown a sign on the wall, or small print on your receipt, that will read: “Good once sold cannot be…” (You know the rest.)

Be a customer. Walk into a bank and try to get a loan for something. Watch the paperwork hoops you will be asked to jump through for the next few weeks. Watch how you will be asked to provide not only cash or a property as collateral, but also insure your own life in the bank’s interest in case you default. Then watch how the bank will make you pay for every single expense related to the loan: insurers, valuers, lawyers et al. Watch how it will also charge you something large for “arranging” the loan (it’s a costly favour they’re doing you, apparently). And watch how the bank will earn a huge spread on the interest payments you will now be bound to make for much of the rest of your working life.

What are these businesses doing? They’re being shrewd, of course. They’re protecting themselves against nasty customers like you, who will abuse and misuse them if given the slightest opportunity. They’re looking after themselves; you have to look after you. That’s the way business is done.

Or is it?

There’s a better way, people. I just don’t think most of you will have the breadth of vision, the acuity of insight, or the bigness of heart to see it. That kind of person, like Gary Vaynerchuk, sees very clearly that the overriding purpose of business is to create and hold happy customers. That making customers happy makes employees happy. That happy customers create happy shareholders. That you make more money, not less, by not sweating the little stuff so much. That archaic rules and regulations kill the relationship and make every transaction coldly economic, instead of warmly emotional.

I don’t believe your business, whatever industry you’re in, knows this. So go on, prove me wrong.

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