Consumerism and stress
Nowadays, consumers hold the most peculiar 'balance of
power' in the marketplace.
The almighty dollar is not what it used to be, as more and
more demanding customers push businesses to new levels of value creation
- 'create value for me or leave the marketplace'.
Herald, 14 November 2002, "Banking comes to
Grocery shoppers will be able to make cash deposits and
withdrawals at the checkout from next year under a deal struck between the
country's largest supermarket operator and an Australian bank.
Foodstuffs, which runs the New World, Pak'N Save, Write
Price and Four Square chains, has signed a deal with Australia's fifth-largest
bank, St George, which will see banking services introduced at its stores...
The range of banking products would be offered progressively,
but at first customers would only be able to use Internet and telephone banking
with Foodstuffs' stores offering information on the products.
St George banking counters would not appear in supermarkets.
Customers would instead use the checkouts and service desks,
which would not occur until mid- to late-2003..."
But it's more than just providing new malls and
conveniences. Staff need to realign attitudes.
To create value, business people must provide superior
customer service and satisfaction, to levels never really seen before. That's
not easy to do with customers becoming more sophisticated and pushy. Value
creation is about doing things quickly -– time is money, reducing the effort a
customer must experience to do business with your company, and eliminating the
anxiety they experience when purchasing products is the goal.
The Warehouse (NZ superstore) appeases the 'appetites
for convenience' of a large chunk of the market -– plenty of parking means
less time and effort; numerous check-out counters mean less time and effort; and
the money-back guarantee limits anxiety.
In many respects, NZ really needed a shot in the arm in its
general attitude to providing service to customers; but of course this
initiative is really nothing more than good old fashioned courtesy, the golden
rule and going the extra mile -– all biblical principles.
The paradox of 'kingdom principles' in a self-orientated
There are a number of ironies to mixing kingdom principles
with the western mindset. The obvious one being that we live in a self-centred
western system which drives a 'me-first' attitude, and we are now
introducing less-self ethic -– "put yourself into your customers shoes...have
empathy". The irony is that in an effort to generate more return ($$$) we are
trying to establish a giving retail culture.
It's kind of like standing on a yacht, and blowing into the
sails and wondering why the vessel remains stationary, gathering no momentum for
all your effort. Humans need external 'purpose' (a source outside of
ourselves) as the driving force behind any initiative which includes an element
of self-abasement long term. Sacrificial giving is a powerful tool, but requires
the correct driver -– the source of all good things is God.
Philippians 2:3b -– sets the context for the well known
Scriptures portraying Jesus Christ's selfless example "...let each esteem
other better than themselves".
Stress more than we can bear
I remember watching a documentary in the 90's about
Japanese corporate businessmen. These men held pressure positions within high
flying companies -– working long hours with an intense focus on business.
An unusual medical phenomena followed. This sector of society
began to experience an incredible increase in unusual 'mental breakdowns'
-– presenting 'stroke-like symptoms'. The cameras followed the wives and
children of these 'busy-ness-men' as they visited their loved ones in
various hospitals. The men did not acknowledge or seem to even recognise their
wives, children or family photographs. They showed little emotion at all to
stimulus of any type -– until, they were shown their company's corporate logo
or branding, at which point they either became emotional, or showed some sort of
The graveyard is full of indispensable men and women...
As can be expected in the struggle to accumulate more and
more, corporations will sacrifice their most precious commodity -– their
employees, in order to increase the bottom line. Using empathy as a tool to make
money is not viable long term, we need a deeper purpose.
New Zealand Herald, 16 July 2002, "Chief Executive
Officers appointed to lead ANZ's new franchise outlets will have just a year
to reach targets before their jobs are threatened.
ANZ isn't mucking around: Reviews come six-monthly, and the
rule of thumb is "two strikes and you are out"...
There are four targets under the franchise arrangement:
Financial profit, staff and customer satisfaction and compliance...
The new targets system which incorporated staff and customer
satisfaction meant banks would no longer chase only financial gains..."