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The Company - Customer Pact


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#1 bwelford

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 12:29 PM

It shouldn't need to be said, but here is a great initiative, the Company - Customer Pact

Hat tip to Andy Sernovitz .

Are you for or against? Will you be signing on?

#2 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:05 PM

It's a lovely idea - but I cannot help but believe it will not become overly effective.

The sole reason being that those companies/custoemrs that should pay attention to such ideals are more than aware of them, and have chosen to ignore such common courtesies.
They have chosen to be abusive, threatening, snide or deceitful etc. They have opted to with-hold payment, delay sending goods etc.

That said, I can see it reinforcing such good values in other companies/people, and possibly making good folks better.

#3 iamlost

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:20 PM

It will be quite some time before I can get around to the Company-Customer Pact as I am still considering the Parent-Child Pact, the Teacher-Student Pact, the Male-Female Pact, the Husband-Wife Pact (Note: the traditional one kind of flopped, sad to say), Employer-Employee Pact, Consumer-Recycler Pact...

In short, no.
When relationship ethics must be formalised they have have already failed. Of course this could just be a BBB 'trust for rent' money grab. Will just have to wait and see.

Or it just may be a marketing ploy by PBwiki Small Business Edition ($500-$3500 per year)- see links at bottom of ccpact.com page.

Yes, iamlost is an old paranoid grouch. Neurotic too. But oh so big and cuddly.

#4 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 03:01 PM

Bless... and personally, I don't think you're paranoid or grouchy 9then again, I'm not much different, so possibly biased :)).

I've gone back to that page three times in the past 2 Hours...
There is just something that I cannot put my finger on that strikes me as "missing" about it, and I cannot fathom it.
If anyone else see's what I mean, please let me know, as it's really bugging me.


I must admit though, the more I read it, the more the idea appeals to me.

Edited by Autocrat, 04 February 2008 - 03:19 PM.


#5 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 03:23 PM

the pact has a spelling mistake.. but otherwise looks good :)

#6 Respree

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 03:25 PM

I think the formalization of the affirmation serves as a visual reminder to not lose sight of what is important, whatever that may be.

There is a part of the pact that doesn't sit quite right with me, however. It's the customer pact part. I can't see any company displaying this on their site or physical place of business. To control the philosophy of one's business, I think is one thing, but to attempt to ask your customers to abide by a code is asking a bit too much, in my opinion.

Edited by Respree, 04 February 2008 - 03:30 PM.


#7 AbleReach

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 04:11 PM

I have problems with a company dictating customer actions/reactions. It almost seems paranoid, as if the company has had problems and doesn't want customers to go off and talk to each other.

If the company is open to dialog and demonstrates such, customers will go to them for problemsolving. It doesn't take much to seem inaccessible or uncaring. One missed email, one badly handled request for help or information, and that customer and whoever they talk to may be getting a different impression of the company than the day before the email/request. When someone else has the power, two occasions like that can be enough to seem like a trend.

Besides, I have an innate mistrust of any big image of text without also providing some sort of text-based version for people and technology unable to can't "see" text. Accessibility 101, guys, and Search 101.

#8 Feydakin

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 02:03 PM

I have always found these types of things to be silly at best.. Sort of like those motivational posters.. If you need a poster to remind you to be nice and work hard, then you may need to re-address your goals and actions..

It reminds me of that XXX Bill of Rights madness from a few years ago where every industry was creating one..

#9 bwelford

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 04:50 PM

I have problems with a company dictating customer actions/reactions. It almost seems paranoid, as if the company has had problems and doesn't want customers to go off and talk to each other.

I'm not sure, Elizabeth, this is something that is dictated by the company. The notion of a pact is that two parties agree to do something. Usually it means they will work together.

Perhaps this is something that customers should dictate, rather than the companies. In other words you would approach a company and say, "This is the way I behave. Will your company undertake to behave as set out in this pact?"

I write this because of a disastrous customer service experience my wife had with one of the telecom companies only two days ago. I will be writing more when it has been completely cleared up. Suddenly they reneged on a prior contractual agreement and refused to honor it, despite being given complete details on what the customer representative had agreed to. She was passed from one representative to another (seven in all), all of whom were very unsympathetic. One of them just put the phone down in the middle of the conversation. She was devastated by the whole experience.

My wife by nature always follows the precepts of the pact. The company demonstrated the very worst counter-example of the suggested company behaviour.

#10 DCrx

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 06:10 AM

I expect the customer pact to go the way of the mission statement. Sweet nothings filed off into a drawer. In other words, the devil is in the policies and procedures manual -- and that ain't changin'.

I once asked a "signatory" of the Cluetrain Manifesto exactly what they had done differently. Or what basic actions they were taking in keeping with the manifesto.

The answer was, essentially, "...whahuh?!"

Action was off the menu. This is nothing more than the American penchant for empty pseudo-public gestures. Add it to the list alongside ribbons worn on the lapel or knockoff "Live Strong" bracelets people buy when they can't be bothered to actually donate the dollar. You wear these things to say "look at me ...I'm trendy and politically correct."


Signing onto the pact is a feel good measure, lacking what Jim Collins calls a catalytic mechanism. I disagree that only companies who live the pact will sign it -- companies who "walk the talk" are too busy going beyond a customer pact to sign up.

The companies who signup want to rationalize away service which will never meet the spirit of the pact. They're the selfsame companies making Dilbertesque mission statements while employing "we fire at will" policies with vigor. (Many times against employees a little too concerned with the customer end of the pact) They're trying to con themselves under the assumption customers will follow.

A Hint: If the only strenuously enforced specific policy is the willing suspension of disbelief -- you're part of the problem and not the solution.


Examples of "Catalytic Mechanisms"
Terrabite Lounge sells coffee, muffins and bagels on the "honor pay" system. You pay what you feel like. Guess what that does? It's a baseball bat enforcement of the customer pact. Any violations of the pact and the business takes one in the kneecaps.

This single policy change is a persuasion design lynchpin. Behaviors change. Hiring policies change -- No More Warm Bodies At Minium Wage or else. No more willful self-delusion or else.

Your customer pact is instantly reflected in the price of goods, not entirely unlike like a stock price.

When we're talking about funny sounding terms like captology, it's nice in theory. But design is key here, and most businesses aren't well designed to execute on the customer pact idea.

Here's what a captologist (persuasion designer) would recommend instead...

Granite Rock would provide total customer satisfaction and achieve a reputation for service that met or exceeded that of Nordstrom, the upscale department store that is world famous for delighting its customers. Not exactly a timid goal for a stodgy, family-owned company whose employees are mostly tough, sweaty people operating rock quarries and whose customers—mainly tough, sweaty construction workers and contractors—are not easily dazzled.

Now stop and think for a minute: what would it take to actually reach such an ambitious goal? Most people automatically think of galvanizing leadership. But that wasn’t an option for Granite Rock, as the Woolperts are a quiet, thoughtful, and bookish clan. Nor did the answer lie in hosting hoopla events or launching grand customer service initiatives. The brothers had seen such efforts at other companies and believed they had little lasting effect.

They chose instead to implement a radical new policy called short pay. The bottom of every Granite Rock invoice reads, “If you are not satisfied for any reason, don’t pay us for it. Simply scratch out the line item, write a brief note about the problem, and return a copy of this invoice along with your check for the balance.”

Let me be clear about short pay. It is not a refund policy. Customers do not need to return the product. They do not need to call and complain. They have complete discretionary power to decide whether and how much to pay based on their satisfaction level.

--Turning Goals Into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms



Most companies fail to design their business in accord with their "mission." It is entirely possible to design a culture. But people would rather point to culture as that thing that keeps them from performing to a level customers find acceptable -- let alone delightful and desirable.

Rather it is a game of what is the least we can possibly do and what will customers let us get away with. And all the manifestos and feel-good pacts and proclamations become the meaningful action version of Hamberger-Helper ...but without the hamburger. We need to bring back the slogan "where's the beef?"

The "beef" is a catalytic mechanism. The evidence of action is where, alongside the neat, sterile, website feedback form ...you put a list of all the feedback the company put into action.

The language of the customer pact is ambiguous for a reason. It allows those companies who shirk their duties and due diligence to feel good while doing so by signing up. Adding your name to this thing is, quite literally, the least you could possibly do. Falling into a coma implies more effort.

Customer Pacts are written in action -- not ink. And rather than being hidden in a corner of your lobby (or internet) your customer pact is far more visible ...it's being lived every day by your customers.

Most people aren't running a business ...they're far too busy being run by their business. They can't step outside their business to see what sounds good inside company walls gets near-zero customer buy-in. ....Then they wonder why they get commodity pricing for what should be value added products or services. They chalk up an inability to change their momentum on "culture," and nail up motivation posters, manifestos and customer pacts oblivious to the way this stuff reads to the target user when actions betray words.

Captology offers a way to run a business in a way a hundred thousand manifestos, pacts, and proclamations and a million gripe boards does not.

Edited by DCrx, 10 February 2008 - 08:54 AM.


#11 bwelford

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 11:02 AM

Well said, DCrx. Let's have lots more Catalytic Mechanisms by whatever process works. Without that, each of these initiatives does little to change the climate of opinion. However perhaps collectively they gradually change the view of what should be accepted behaviour. If nothing is said, then nothing changes.

:applause:

#12 iamlost

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 11:14 AM

...this sort of design forensic is how you can read "between the lines." Many users do this unconsciously and automatically, but can't put into words...

Thank you for finding the words and doing the analysis.
:cheers:

#13 DCrx

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 11:35 AM

If nothing is said, then nothing changes.


Let's say you build a prototype, put it on the web ....it attracts users ...who then start talking. You don't engage them in conversation, you engage them in interaction with your prototype.

Michael Schrage explains this as "prototype culture." It's the same reason people do user tests.

I mean, really, why ever have a user test? You could just have a conversation. It's because action is language.

Action speaks louder than words because action is commitment. I'm not against talk. But talk is the cheap. If action doesn't show up at about the same time as the words ...then you can throw away the words. There is an ocean of difference between "let me tell you something" and "let's try this and see what happens."

Edited by DCrx, 10 February 2008 - 11:36 AM.


#14 bwelford

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 12:20 PM

Action speaks louder than words because action is commitment. I'm not against talk. But talk is cheap. If action doesn't show up at about the same time as the words ...then you can throw away the words. There is an ocean of difference between "let me tell you something" and "let's try this and see what happens."

Yes, mostly. However if there are many voices, that becomes a phenomenon that the powers that be have to listen to. Perhaps not immediately since they must save face, but the next time when they must take a decision perhaps the playing field has been tilted a little in the right direction. Each time a company does it right, it changes expectations on what others must do. You can't say, We're no worse than the other guy, if the other guy just got a lot better.

That's the beauty of Web 2.0 and social media. Provided people stop lurking and speak up, then that alone is moving the power towards the people.

#15 rynert

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Posted 10 February 2008 - 02:46 PM

I've gone back to that page three times in the past 2 Hours...
There is just something that I cannot put my finger on that strikes me as "missing" about it, and I cannot fathom it.
If anyone else see's what I mean, please let me know, as it's really bugging me.


Is it the way it reads...

As a company this is what we think the customers want, and what we would like to achieve (if it doesn't cost too much)

As a company this is the way we want you, our customers, to forgive us when we decided we couldn't afford to put in place what we would like to do...

#16 laurad

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 01:56 PM

I really get why its being done, but I must agree when you need to put something in writing (or text as the case here online) you have forgotten the entire thing if you really need a reminder of it. I dont think a company should need to sign a pact in order to provide great service, they just should.

#17 EricFerrer

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 03:17 PM

We have stirred up a hornet's nest, haven't we?!!

I think that it all boils down to a lack of ethics. The propriety and decorum that binds together the fabric of society. We live in a day and age when this is fast disappearing and it comes as no shock to me to see this in the business world.

The problem, I think is more rampant with the larger business organizations. Usually they just don't have the administrative infrastructure to provide the service promised by them -- and often they just don't care about it either. In my mind this is purely a problem from the standpoint of the company (or service provider) -- it can never be the problem of the customer. I am afraid I cannot explain why, but there seems to be something radically wrong in expecting the customers to sign a pact! Am I being undemocratic?

Many years ago, I was a visitor to a government hospital in a third world country. There was a single doctor doling out prescriptions to this huge lineup of purportedly sick people. The prescriptions were scribbled out, presumably in a stereo-typed fashion, sometimes with barely a glance at the 'patient'. On the wall behind the doctor was a board declaring 'Courtesy begets Courtesy'. I have always thought about the irony and pathos of that situation. Who was right? I would never know.



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