When I began consulting with my current largest client, I was surprised to discover that some of the marketing people had a habit of making condescending remarks about their customers.
These were bright people who cared about quality. But somewhere along the line, they had decided it was okay to demean the customer in absentia. This was a great company in many ways. But I knew it was doomed if this attitude was allowed to persist.
I spoke to the CEO about it. He himself never said a bad word about anyone, so I knew it couldn’t be coming from him. At first, he thought I was overreacting. “They are probably blowing off steam,” he said. “I’m sure they don’t mean it.”
“They may not mean it,” I replied. “But if they keep talking that way their subordinates will imitate them. And before long, you will have a business that treats its customers badly.”
“I don’t want that,” he admitted.
“Well then, you have to do something about it. And fast.”
What I suggested was a campaign I called “Calculated Enthusiasm” — convincing his already jaded senior staff to consciously and conspicuously pretend to be enthusiastic about their customers, even if they weren’t.
I began by explaining to them that cynicism is destructive. I gave them examples of how a cynical attitude had damaged a company I had worked for in the past.
They accepted my statement in theory. But they didn’t think they were being cynical. “We’re just being funny,” they said.
“But demeaning your customers is not funny,” I said. It is damaging to them because it will eventually manifest itself in your customer service. And when that happens, it will be damaging to you because they will take their business elsewhere.”
Eventually, they agreed to give Calculated Enthusiasm a try.
Speaking “positively” about their customers felt awkward at first, but soon it became second nature. And the effect on their subordinates was immediate and obvious. Discussions about new products and customer problems were imbued with positive energy. New ideas were suggested to improve just about everything. Morale improved.
If you want success in the long run… and if you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror every morning… love your customer. Start by swearing off cynicism. Ban the condescending jokes. Stop using derogatory language.
Then start to think about what your job is… what it really is. And maybe it will dawn on you that selling is — or can be — a loving act.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]