But what if your customer has different values? Not everyone, after all, has the taste for 12-year-old single malt Scotches. Some people prefer a good Belgian beer, or a flinty Sauvignon Blanc, or a glass of fresh cool water.
Apple realized this last September when the feedback turned feisty after they gave free copies of U2’s new Songs of Innocence album to 500 million iTunes users.
Wired magazine’s coverage excoriated the company and the band. “Is the company completely oblivious to the idea that users of its technology products come in shapes other than those who would be interested in a pop-rock band popular among older white males?”
“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” Steve Jobs reportedly observed. And the success of the original iPod certainly seems to prove that point.
But showing people is one thing, and shoving something down their throats (or downloading it to their personal computers) is another. The latter could feel more like an act of aggression than a show of generosity.
Assuming you know what’s best for others isn’t following the golden rule – it’s expecting them to have the same values and priorities you do, and that’s not always the case.
Tackling big social challenges can also be undermined by the wrong assumptions – even with the greatest of intentions.
Back in 2010, the school system in Newark was so broken that the state of New Jersey had taken over its administration. In her new book, The Prize: Who’s in Charge of American Schools?, the Washington Post’s Dale Russakoff detailed how three powerful forces came together with the intention of not only bringing it back to life, but creating a model of success for every urban school district in the country.
Cory Booker, then Mayor of Newark, the state’s Governor Chris Christie, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who contributed a hugely generous grant of $100 million) each had different ideas about the best way to address this enormous challenge.
As Russakoff describes the situation, ironically, the demands of the people in the Newark community itself were never appropriately recognized and those most directly involved in the delivery of services – the teachers and parents – were not included in shaping the reforms.
The project floundered in spite of all the great intentions, powerful leadership, and significant financial investment.
Zuckerberg has since has regrouped, and, with his wife Priscilla Chan, announced a gift of $120 million in grants to high-poverty schools in the San Francisco area. This time they plan to include teachers and parents in the planning process, and embrace a much broader view of “customer” needs, including mental and physical support for the children and their families that extends way beyond the classrooms themselves.
If your agency, company or organization really wants to embrace excellent customer service practices, the path to success depends on knowing what those customers actually want. To uncover those values, keep asking questions and listen carefully to all the answers.
What do you think? Got any other marketing missteps or customer service coups you’d like to share? Tell us about them in the comments section below…