• March 1, 2018
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

A Customer-Engaged Culture Must Be Believable and Respectful

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Last year, I promised you that I would cover the major elements of a customer-engaged culture in three parts. In the June 2017 issue of CRM, I covered trustworthiness as a characteristic. In part two, which came along in October, I handled empathy. Now it is time to discuss the final two elements—believability and respectfulness.


For a company to successfully create a customer-engaged culture, the employees have to be hired not just for their skills but for the kind of people they are. The idea is not that you believe what the company puts out in its materials, but that you believe that the company has real people with warmth and personality. In this context, a company being “believable” means that customers can see a little bit of themselves in the people they interact with at the company, and that decency is manifest no matter where or how customers interact with them.

To give an example from the sports realm, the Golden State Warriors, the marquee team of the National Basketball Association, are also the world’s most popular and recognizable basketball team. One reason for that is not just their winning ways but their willingness to allow stars such as Steph Curry to show their human side. Curry’s family is very involved in his basketball life. His daughter Riley has been in multiple videos, as have his wife and parents. Since she was 2, Riley has been crawling all over press conference tables, stealing the show from her illustrious dad. This is adorable and cute, but most of all, it humanizes the Warriors, makes them relatable. To the public, they aren’t this extraordinary group of larger-than-life megastars with overblown egos, but instead a team of immensely talented human beings.


Finally, and most importantly, to become a customer-engaged company, you should show that you are respectful of your customers, your competitors, your employees, and the world in general. Showing respect can range from simply treating customer concerns in a serious, honorable way to respecting the world in general by having sustainability and environmental programs.

But since I’m focused on customer engagement, I’ll focus on respect for the customer—most critically with regards to customer concerns about personal information. I’m not talking about simply doing what the General Data Protection Regulation will mandate starting in May, but a deeply rooted concern for customers’ choices in how they want their information used.

The disrespect that is still too often shown for customers’ personal data is a manifest problem in the business world, reflected in how data usage policies are buried in terms and conditions rather than obviously visible, or in the prevalence of opting-out policies—meaning we’re going to use your information unless you tell us not to. This demonstrates a profound lack of respect for customers, because it shows a desire to “get over” on them—by hiding terms of use and placing the burden to change them on customers.

For example, when customers order a year-long subscription, don’t pay attention to the terms of service closely enough to know that auto-renewal kicks in unless they turn if off, and end up being charged for something they’re no longer interested in—that’s opt-out. A straightforward way to show respect is by making the usage policy opt-in—the customer has to give the company permission to use the information. So opt-in would be telling customers it’s time to renew and if they would like to, here’s a renewal URL they can use. The customer’s control of choice is respected by the company.

To elaborate on this idea, let’s look at something that Facebook did a few years back


There is a tendency among Facebook’s 1.2 billion members to view it as a neighborhood for their virtual convenience. But let’s be clear: Facebook is first and foremost a public company that needs to satisfy its shareholders. It’s a business with a nearly unquenchable thirst to make money by commercializing what it does.

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