B to Z

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First there was B to B, a way of distinguishing businesses that sell to other businesses as opposed to those old fashioned B to C businesses that were intent on selling to customers. Now, the people at TechProduct Update are offering a video from the folks at FileMaker on B to E – Business to Employee. Really?

First of all, let me say that I didn’t watch the video, and I’m not recommending that you do. I am never going to watch a video, read a whitepaper or see the results of a survey that requires me to register with a company that is going to pester me with advertising email, cold calls and more chances to register. Second, I’m pretty sure that the “video” is a commercial for Filemaker’s mobile app building technology. I’m familiar with that, I even like it, but not enough to endure more junk mail.

Now with that disclaimer out of the way, and in yet another reference to a favorite movie, (Remember the Titans) I would like to point out that if you ain’t B-to-C, you ain’t nothin’. Businesses have customers and that’s it, period. The second you start treating me like something other than a customer, I am going to start losing interest in you. Wait, what if you start treating me better than a mere customer? Nope, sorry; been there and special is only special until someone who is more special comes along. I’m a special customer of a major airline, but I board the plane last and I pay $30 for each piece of luggage. Some of my friends who travel much more often than I do are truly special, but some are finding themselves “less special” these days according to an article in the NY Times. I prefer to do business with companies that treat all their customers well. I don’t mind that the guy in 1st Class has a better seat; he paid for that just as some people bought a more tricked-out Jeep than I did. But my Jeep dealer treated me very nicely, as if my purchase was important, as if he actually wanted to sell the less expensive Jeeps on his showroom floor too.

Reward programs are fine, and I belong to several, but the companies that I am loyal to have reward programs that are simply rewards, as opposed to ball and chain style agreements designed to trap my business. In the past month, I have ignored several warnings about my “points that are in danger of expiring” from companies that I simply don’t like dealing with. If I hate flying on your airline, why would I fly more often for the chance of getting a free flight? Look at how often I chose your airline when I first signed-up for your reward program. Look at the way you treat me. Look at how often I choose your airline today. That pattern tells a story, and it’s not that your reward program is broken – your customer service program is broken! I’m still flying, but I’m flying more often on another airline.

At work, I deal with vendors who are clearly B to B companies. Some of these vendors come and go over time, but some stay. The ones that stay treat me and the other people in our company that they deal with, like customers. They aren’t selling to the company I work for, they are selling to me; they listen to me and they try to help me to do my job. I have kept our company’s business with one technology vendor for 20 years. 20 years! These people started out selling me products that don’t exist anymore, some from companies that don’t exist anymore, and yet I kept our business with them. Why? Well, because I like how they treat their customers. I can put that in the plural form, because I know a lot of their customers, and we all love how this company treats us. They are clearly a B to B company, but they are selling B to C.

Getting back to the video that I didn’t watch from the company that I don’t want email from; I think it’s truly absurd to think of doing B to E business. Your employees are not another form of customer, they are your company, and they are part of your customer service program. If you’re treating your employees as outsiders, even a special class of outsiders, you’re cheating them and you’re ultimately cheating your customers. On the flip side, if you are an employee who wants to be treated like a special kind of customer, I would urge you to find a new job – find a job where you feel like you are part of the company and then act like you are part of the company.

6 thoughts on “B to Z

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  1. In the social media world, this reminds me of brands that publicly celebrate their nth followers/fans. “We have a special prize for our 10,000th fan.” Is your 9999th fan less important? Are your fans just numbers?

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  2. I haven’t watched the video, I’m not defending FileMaker, but “treat your employees as customers” has a different connotation for me. To me it implies acknowledging that they have a choice and could take their “business” elsewhere, that you need to make an effort to consider their needs and preferences, to make the processes and systems you’re asking them to interact with comfortable and efficient.

    I agree that a company should treat its employees as more than customers, but there are numerous companies that treat their employees like cogs, and for them treating their employees like customers would be a vast improvement. And I don’t mean “should” in a moral or humane sense, I mean it in an enlightened self interest sense – because if you take advantage of the poor economy to treat your employees poorly, the best will move on when the economy improves and they’ll take their accumulated corporate knowledge and expertise with them, and leave your company unable to take advantage of the improving conditions. Nobody is going to leave their job because the in-house mobile app is hard to use, but how you design your mobile app both follows from and reinforces your general attitude toward your employees/customers.

    A company needn’t cater to every whim of every employee anymore than it should cater to every whim of every customer – some just cost more than they are worth and you’re better off sending them to your competition – but employee preferences and satisfaction should carry weight in company decisions.

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    1. You raise some good and valid points, butI would hope I could confine the marketing part to the recruiting effort and then have employees be part of the team. A B-to-E marketing effort seems destined to become one of those programs that leads to people pointing to scorecards and saying “they must be happy, look at these results” while turnover is increasing.

      Thanks for the comment
      D

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  3. Picture Reference – That’s PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn’t win the night we were there, but the experience was wonderful. It’s a beautiful ballpark offering a view of a great city. In addition, we traveled to and from the game on the Gateway Clipper Fleet which made the evening all that more special.

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