An illustration of a brain half analytic, half emotional

Your Customers Do Not Want to Make Friends with a Sociopath

If your business were a person, would it be a caring friend, or a borderline sociopath?

To build relationships with customers, they must be thought of on a human level, not a transactional one. Service expectations from customers continue to grow, and the need for organizations to provide a more personal experience does too. People like their time and effort to be valued and to be treated well. All relationships have some basis in emotion after all. Understanding this, does your customer experience, its service actions and its company culture, show it cares?

A Business or a Person

Quite a few years ago, I came across a really great (if not a little longer than necessary) documentary called The Corporation. In the 2003 film, the filmmakers look at an interesting little detail of the United States’s 14th Amendment: Under constitutional law, corporations are seen as individuals. A legal term known as Corporate Personhood.

Their conclusion was that if large businesses could be considered “people”, then their actions would define them as sociopaths. But I’d argue companies of any size can certainly show these traits, and they may not even realize they are.

What Makes a Sociopath

I looked up the consistent traits of a sociopath from various online publications like Psychology Today, Health Guidance and MD-Health to get an understanding of the possible characteristics that could equate to bad customer service.

Let me know if any of these seem familiar, either as your business or one you deal with:

  • Heartless – if your business looks at customers as more of a necessary evil, and not understanding that action and inaction can have major emotional impacts to their day, week or longer.
  • Cold and Calculating – if your business sees customers as a means to an end on a spreadsheet, rather than as a series of possible relationships that can tie to your purpose and give your work meaning.
  • Me, Me, Me – if every social media post, every interaction, every bit of marketing is all about your business and not how you help your customers.
  • Think You’re Big Stuff – if your business takes itself far too seriously and demonstrates little gratitude or humble qualities.
  • Only Interested in Hook Ups – if you’re all about customer acquisition but no effort or interest in retention (aka customer care or relationships).
  • Know it All / Curse of Knowledge – if you’re more proud of how smart you sound and your industry acronyms rather than speaking plainly and helpfully to your customers.
  • Snake Charmer – if your business manipulates its customers to squeeze the most money out of them, thinking they are easily replaceable by other easily manipulated customers, with no remorse or guilt about it.
  • Can’t Take the Heat – if your company avoids bad reviews like they don’t exist or lashes out at any negative feedback, either in person, online or on social, not taking any accountability for your actions.
  • Paranoid Much – if your business micromanages its employees or immediately assumes the worst of your customers.
  • Entertain Me – if your business can’t put in the work to manage customer relationships long term, not seeing its value and getting bored with the effort.
  • Leap Before You Look – if your business is quicker to respond defensively than with a well thought out, reviewed and heartfelt answer.
  • Pants on Fire –  if you business is more interested in saying what ever it takes, even if untrue, to get out of an uncomfortable conversation with its customers.
  • Blame Game – if your business is more interested in pointing fingers and making excuses when something goes wrong rather than apologizing and working to correct the mistake.

Traits with Customer Value

Don’t let your business, or anyone you interact with, be a sociopath. Customers deserve better. And they’ll put their trust and loyalty into a business that treats them well with the traits that matter to them: empathy, gratitude, giving, interested, effort, attention, responsive, thoughtful, accountable, truthful and trusting.

Be a business that cares and matters to your customers, not a “corporation”.

What are two business character traits you avoid? Or two character traits that keep you around?
I’d love to hear from you below.

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