Is Your Company Psychopathic? How Brands Can Become More Human

Is Your Company Psychopathic? How Brands Can Become More Human

One per cent of the general population are considered to be psychopaths, people who are unable to have any real empathy for people or animals. Don Peppers, the founding partner of management consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group argues that just like psychopaths, traditional businesses are run without empathy for customers. In order to break away from this psychopathic behaviour, companies need to become more customer-centric.

ERIN MARY Doyle
Posted by ERIN MARY Doyle

“The problem that many companies have today is they’re maniacally focused on the short-term. Because all the financial metrics are short-term, even stock price (although it reflects the market’s opinions) are a short-term metric,” Peppers told B&T during his visit to Melbourne for SAP Hybris Commerce Masterclass.

“Suppose I have a really good customer who gives me a lot of business. That customer calls in with a problem and I don’t handle the call very well and the customer hangs up angrier than he was at the beginning. Didn’t my business just lose a little bit of its shareholder value?

“Because the truth is economically speaking the value of my company as an enterprise is equal to the discounted net-present value of all my future cash flow. I don’t know what the future cash flow is, but now I had a really valuable customer who is not going to give me as much cash flow as before. So I’ve lost some value.”

A company’s focus on the short-term financial metrics of a business with little-to-no-care for the long-term customer metrics is matched with the increasing social connectedness of customers. “In order to be really customer-centric, companies today need to get ahead of their customers and start proactively protecting their interests rather than simply not stealing from their outright.”

For Peppers, Amazon is an example of a customer-centric business model. If an Amazon user is about to buy a product which they’ve bought previously, the company will remind them of their past purchase. “It wouldn’t be dishonest for Amazon to just sell you that book that you were going to buy by mistake, they would make a profit on that, but instead what they’re trying to do is convince you they have your interest at heart.”

This is the reason companies have psychopathic tendencies, because they are not designed for empathy but for command and control. “It doesn’t take empathy to read an organisation chart or to write a business rule. It takes empathy to know what another person is feeling or thinking.

“If a business’ sole purpose in life is to make money for itself. If that’s the entire function of the business. If they do everything and exclude every other interest from that and they have no empathy with their customers who they’re taking money from. That’s by definition psychopathic behaviour.”

If you think he’s lying, Peppers has a challenge for everyone:

“The next time you put a customer experience initiative into play and your CFO asks you to justify it financially. Rather than show them data and numbers why don’t you try this argument: ‘We’re just trying to treat customers the way that friends would treat friends. A friend wouldn’t let a friend do something against their interest’. See how that plays out, I doubt he or she would take you seriously.”

That’s Peppers argument, business aren’t customer-centric they are psychopathic. In order to be more customer-centric, brands need to make an effort to treat customers the way a friend would treat a friend.