We spend a lot of time talking about the value of things like customer centricity, transparency and the importance of designing and consistently delivering great customer experiences. Why? Yes, because it’s what we love and are great at… but it’s also that it helps our clients drive greater customer loyalty and revenue because the company understands and better meets customer needs.
This is the heart of customer centricity as a business strategy; the recognition that by putting your customer at the center of your world that you’ll not only better serve them, but that you’ll profit wildly as a result. We believe this is the future of “smart companies.”
These are the firms that embrace the customer centric model, using a blend of digital technology, data and customer understanding to create experiences and relationships with their customers that are so good they won’t even consider a competitor.
Then, you have the anti-customer model.
Virtuous circle or vicious cycle?
There are many “poster children” for the types of organizations that put profits first and customer last (think Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals, for example).
But there’s one company in the news that makes these two look like amateurs when it comes delivering a bad customer experience. Last week, Bayer AG (a drug and chemical company, and the makers of Aspirin), announced that it’s made a $62B offer to buy Monsanto, the U.S. crops and seed specialist.
Unlike the “virtuous circle” we work to create for customer experience leaders (better experience = greater loyalty = greater value), Monsanto – so reviled that #monsatan is a Twitter hashtag in regular use – has created a “vicious cycle” which not only ignores customer needs, it explicitly exploits them (evil business practices = locked-in customers = greater profit).
Is there any wonder that Bayer stock dropped over 7 percent on news of this deal?
Some companies suck.
I’m not going to go much into this, but suffice to say that not only does Monsanto force farmers to do business with them to do so on Monsanto’s terms, they use a clever combination of chemistry and the law (patents, punitive lawsuits and intimidation, for example) to lock customers into a world where they have few options.
For example, they’ve created genetically modified “suicide seeds” which don’t allow replanting from season to season, so farmers are locked into buying new seeds every year. But should a ‘volunteer’ plant appear, after the farmer stops using these seeds? Gotcha! They’re facing penalties for patent infringement.
And by cleverly architecting these GMO seeds to work with Monsanto’s other products, farmers are further locked into buying all their inputs – seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides – from a single company.
Sadly, there are still many “anti-customer” companies like Monsanto.
These are companies that put profits ahead of people, and embrace the overlord theory of business strategy: Tightly control your customers and your products, and lock them in not with great service but with legal straightjackets, punitive policies and financial dis-incentives that leave customers feeling trapped and angry.
The future of business has no room for the Monsanto’s of the world.
Rumor has it that Bayer plans to change the Monsanto name if the deal goes through. Sorry, but that’s not going to cut it. But change the way Monsanto does business? Now you’re talking – that’s the road to a brighter future for customers and shareholders.
This brighter future – the one we see – is a place where smart, customer centric companies spend their talent, resources and energy understanding what their customers need, coming up with unique and innovative ways to give it them, and using the data they gather about their customers to make customers lives better. And we see these companies profiting wildly as a result.
So, unless Bayer radically changes the business practices of Monsanto, competitors who recognize the value of embracing and supporting their customers will, eventually, come along. And when they do, Monsanto customers will flee with the speed of the newly emancipated leaving them and their anti-customer policies behind.
It may take five, ten, or even fifteen years – history shows that despots of every stripe (political or corporate) cling to power through every means and for as long as possible. But eventually, they’ll be smothered by smarter, more customer-centric competition and the growing demands of their ever-smarter customers, until finally they just… wither away.