Company leaders realize that profitable growth is impossible without loyalty — yet they have failed miserably in their efforts to earn loyalty from either their customers or their front-line employees. After pondering this paradox for several years I finally began to realize the answer.
The first step is to set aside all that rosy rhetoric about customer focus. Most companies today are waging a war they cannot win — the war against their customers. They cut corners on product and service quality. They impose hidden fees and charges. They force customers to endure aggressive sales tactics, endless airport lines, and virtual or voicemail hell. They don’t tell the truth in their advertising and marketing, nor do they own up to their mistakes.
Ironically, this is a war most of the generals do not want to fight. CEOs spend countless millions of dollars on customer-focus initiatives, improved service quality, and enhanced customer experiences. They extol customer loyalty as the ultimate strategic advantage. Satisfaction surveys rain down on homes and businesses with implicit messages of care, concern, and promises of a better future.
Yet this undeclared war is escalating. Cellular phone providers trap customers in long-term contracts, and then abuse them with outrageous overage charges. Car dealers mislead and manipulate consumers. Banks charge unconscionable nuisance fees. Electronics store clerks flog extended warranties more desperately than their flat-screen TVs. Printer manufacturers price-gouge on refill cartridges. Computer companies make sure that calling their customer help-line is more painful than a trip to the dentist.
Yes, what is really going on is an undeclared war that is destroying corporate reputations, alienating employees, and decimating economic prosperity. It is the reason that nearly 80% of the world’s major corporations failed to achieve a modest 5% real, sustainable rate of growth over the past decade. This war is the reason why society has concluded that business ethics and good profits are both oxymoronic.
The reason I wrote The Ultimate Question was to expose this war and its full range of guerrilla activities. I hoped that I could provide a manual of the tools and tactics required to stop this war for good—and clarify how corporate leaders are unwittingly motivating their troops to book bad profits that destroy loyalty and growth. My goal is to help leaders revitalize good profits and true growth by showing them a practical path for holding organization members accountable for building good relationships and for standards of behavior that are consistent with the Golden Rule and respectful of human dignity (of customers, employees, suppliers and investors alike). We must all blow the whistle on bad profits.