Commitment To The Long-Term
In my highly-connected digital world, it’s really nice to take the time to talk to my friends in person and discuss life, work, love, and the meaning of it all. I’m particularly fond of my conversations with Danielle Morrill, and every time we talk, we have this ability to tease really cool big ideas out of each other. That’s exactly what happened yesterday, and this is one of the many things we talked about.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and throughout my experiences I’ve come to the realization that Corporate America is driven by the short term thinking. This is not exactly an astounding revelation, but I think it’s worth exploring vis-a-vis its impact on how businesses are run and the impact of that thinking on companies’ social media health. Here’s how I see it… Due to the influence of Wall Street and quarterly earnings, the Western economy seems to live and die by what happens in the next 3 months. Of course, having measurable short-term goals is very important — how else would you reach your big goals if you don’t break them up into chunks? However, you can’t focus on the short-term without a very disciplined commitment to the long-term. And this is where things fall apart.
I believe that over the past decades, companies have tried to squeeze out every dollar for the sake of being more profitable in the short term, and where they squeezed from was often critical areas of customer support, investing in customer experience. Customer service is a short-term expense that won’t always materialize until the longer term horizon, because time passes, as repurchases and peer recommendations happen. However, in the long term bad customer experience erodes revenues. Why does this matter now more than ever before? Well, I think it should’ve always mattered, but I also think that social media exposes these bad practices. Customers are now free to talk about you, and inadequate service experience is no longer between just the company and the customer.
Case in point: I just went through a horrible experience with TD Bank, who failed to close my account when I asked them to (last August). Since I was under the impression it was closed, I never thought to follow-up, especially since I work and travel all the time, just got married, was gone for a long time, and never even use this account anymore. Since the account was kept open, each month I got pinged with a service charge until most of the money was gone. I discovered this and called them up, had to talk to several different departments, each of which refused to give me the $ back, neither of which could close the account for me on the phone (I was informed I had to call a branch during office hours), and neither of which had any record of me ever calling! After months of this, I took to Twitter (I only take to Twitter angrily when I’ve exhausted all other options). Within a number of hours, I got a call from the Office of The President, where one (!!!) person was able to close my account, refund me the money, and FedEx me the check. He also had access to my entire history somehow. It was like magic. Was it magic? No, not really. I was finally talking to someone who was empowered to take action in the interests of the customer and provide a customized solution. He also had the systems necessary in place to look up customer history and take the necessary action. Unfortunately this empowerment, training and resourcing don’t happen in other parts of the organization, and support in channels other than Twitter tends to be very different than in social media.
Wall Street isn’t going to change its modus operandi anytime soon, but there’s nothing that’s stopping us as companies and representatives of those companies from investing in the long term.