Tag Archives: business integrity

Forget the Hype: businesses are not interested in retaining exisiting customers

We seem to live in an age where what you say is really important: say the right things and everyone loves you; say the wrong things and you rapidly become a pariah!

For me the importance isn’t so much what people say, it’s more about whether they apply their words:  do they actually do what they say?

Business gurus have told us for years the importance of retaining current customers as ‘They are much easier to gain repeat business from than new customers’ etc.

I have had two experiences that fly in the face of this within the past 3 weeks. 

Two different companies ‘guaranteed’ to supply services for my business and to acknowledge this agreement in writing. 

  1. The first company did neither and did not make any response to e-mails, telephone calls, a fax or written letter (plenty of promises to call back within 45 minutes etc, just no action), despite my clear indication that I would be pursuing a refund in the event of no response: I got none,  so my bank retrieved the payment.
  2. The second company sent me acknowledgement in writing but then became seemingly uninterested in responding to my e-mails,  telephone calls or fax.  In addition, this technology-based company has an online formmail system that returns a string of errors when you try to use it.  So, a  good old ‘snail mail’ signature required letter has been sent so we’ll see if that elicits a response.  In the event of none, you’ve guessed it,  my bank will be busy again!

What I find amazing, is that I am not alone in these experiences.  Several friends in business have experienced the same response and reclaimed their payments.

Now I would have thought that in an economic environment that is not overly healthy or generous, we would all want to retain customers.

Clearly not!

So, is what these ‘gurus’ say important and will I listen to those gurus in future? 

Yes, it is and yes I will … because I know the importance of a loyal (and satisfied) customer base. Most of the ‘gurus’ I read are actually ordinary people who have built businesses from scratch and learned, often the hard way, the importance of backing up what they say with what they do.

But there are clearly too many who either ‘speak the speak but don’t walk the talk’, or who don’t know about this important principle or who simply don’t care, and for them, I fear the future is not Orange!

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What I Do or Who I Am?

I have recently been enjoying Cuban music, in particular that of the Buena Vista Social Club and its members.

For those of you who are not familiar with this group of musicians, the story is a modern-day fairytale …

Cuban music has for decades been the envy and shining star of the World (especially Latin) music scene. Many of the stars who put it on the map had retired or had to find an alternative living to make ends meet: selling lottery tickets or shining shoes in the street, or selling tobacco.

In 1996 Juan de Marcos González, a young Cuban bandleader and arranger was fascinated with the old stars of Cuban music traditions such as Son, Guajira, Son Montuno, Rumba and Bolero. He set out to see how many of them were still living (many had been stars in the 1940’s, 1950’ and 1960’s). To his amazement he was able to contact a large number of these national treasures of Cuba’s musical heritage; the list was impressive:

  • Don Rubén González – legendary pianist and pioneer of the mambo
  • Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López – third generation bassist
  • Ibrahim Ferrer, Piya Leyva, Raúl Planas, Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea and Omara Portuondo – legendary singers
  • Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa – tres player and guitarists
  • Amadito Valdéz – percussionist
  • Barbarito Torres – Laoud player extraordinaire
  • Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal – Cuban legend, trumpet
  • … plus more

In order to understand the stature of this group, each one of these names was at the very top of their profession, many having had a significant impact on the history and direction of Cuban music. Each one of these musicians (plus other top calibre musicians) performed together, in the same room at the same time to record the largest selling Latin album ever (over 8 million copies sold). Everyone enjoyed working and performing on the album and no-one was interested in where their name went on the list of credits. Music was being made for the love of the music and no thought was given to any potential financial gain (though this was eventually considerable).

Live performances in Amsterdam followed release of the CD, and the jewel in the crown was when this group of Cuban musicians were able to play a sell-out concert at Carnegie Hall, New York in 1998, captured on film and CD. When you read the album notes and DVD booklet or watch the performances, the joy and emotion of making music together is clear.

This fairytale ending to the story was that these humble people found a new lease of life as they achieved global recognition and ‘stardom’ when many of us would think of taking it easy: most were in their 70’s or 80’s (Compay Segundo was in his 90’s).

By 2005 many of these great characters had passed on and only recently (Feb 2009) the great Cachaito also died … but their legacy continues.

Why have I taken the time to mention all of these people?

Well, imagine a group of top name Rock n’Roll stars gathering to record an album, or business ‘icons’ producing a new book. Now think about the ego problems; who they would work; who they wouldn’t work with; who would want their name at the top of the list?

For me, the great power and impact of these Cuban recordings is the enjoyment, passion and love of the musicians for their music that shines through so clearly. Everyone is in it for everyone else, making the whole band look great. It’s even recalled that at one stage, Ibrahim Ferrer had a bad throat and was struggling to sing and suggested that perhaps someone else should finish the album! That’s a bit like Eric Clapton suggesting someone else should finish off his guitar solo. This level of humility is rarely seem today in a world of get what we can, when we can, however we can.

This excursion into Cuban music has taught me a lot more than just the notes and beats. Engaging with characters of history (and today) who are prepared to make everyone else look good by playing their part has re-challenged me to ask myself, “Is that the sort of character I am? Do people use me in for who I am as well as what I can bring.”

I read many stories today where the key to a ‘successful’ career isn’t so much what you can do, but what you a as a person bring to a particular situation. I also read that our output usually reflects our personality.

All I can say is that I hope some of my ‘performances’ haven’t really let people know what I was feeling on the day!!

I know that rediscovering my love of Latin music through encountering these characters has re-challenged me to be a person that other people want to know, rather than a person whose talents are admired. It has also reminded me that I cannot try to project and hide behind a different ‘persona’. Just as music is too transparent for that, so too is our daily walk. If we are not consistent, the cracks and inconsistencies will soon show!

I guess my priority is consistency as a person and as a business professional.