I cannot dispute that manipulations work. Each one of them can indeed help influence behaviour, indeed help influence behaviour and help a company become successful. Yet there are trade-offs. Not a single one of them breeds loyalty.
Over a course of time, they cost more and more. The gains are only short term while they increase stress levels of both, the seller and the buyer. If you have exceptionally deep pockets or are looking to achieve only a short term gain sans consideration for the long term, then these strategies and tactics are perfect.
Beyond the business world, manipulations are the norm in the politics of today. Just as manipulations can drive a sale but not create loyalty, they help select a candidate get elected but not create a foundation for leadership. Leadership, on the other hand, is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years, in business leadership means that the customer will continue to support your company even when you slip up.
If manipulation is the only strategy, what happens the next time a purchase decision is required? What happens after an election is won?
There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better service to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers often don’t bother to research the competition or entertain options. Loyalty is not easily won. Repeat business however is. All it takes is more manipulations.
Manipulative techniques have become such a mainstay at business, pan world, that it virtually impossible for most to kick the habit. Like any addiction the drive is not to get sober, but to find the next fix faster and more frequently. And as good as the short term highs may feel, they have a deleterious impact on the long term health of an organisation.
Addicted to the short term results, business today has largely become a series of quick fixes added on one another, after one another. The short term tactics have become so sophisticated that an entire economy has developed to service the manipulations, equipped with statistics and quasi-science. Direct marketing companies, for example, offer calculations about which words, will get the best results on each piece of direct mail they send out.
Those that offer mail – in rebates know the higher the rebate, the more effective it is. They also know the cost that goes along with these rebates. To make them profitable, manufacturers rely on the breakage and slippage numbers staying above a certain threshold. Just like our trusty drug addict, whose behaviour is reinforced by how good the short term high feels, the temptation is to make the qualification of the rebate more obscure, cumbersome, so as to reduce the number of qualified applications can be overwhelming for some.
Samsung mastered the art of the kind of fine prints that makes rebates so profitable for companies. In early 2000s, the company offered cash rebates up to $150 on a variety of electronic products, stipulating in the fine print that the rebate was limited to one per address – a requirement that would have sounded reasonable enough to anyone at the time. Yet in practice, it effectively disqualified all customers who lived in apartment buildings where more than one resident had applied for the same rebate.
More than 40,000 Samsung customers lured by the cash back received notices denying them rebate on those grounds. The practice was brought to the attention of the attorney general and in 2004 Samsung was ordered to pay back $6 million in rebate claims to apartment dwellers.
This is an extreme case of a company that got caught. Yet still, the rebate of filling out forms and doing it all before the deadline is alive and well. How can a company claim to be customer-focussed when they are so comfortable measuring the number of customers who will fail to realise any promise of savings?
Reflect. Ponder. Examine.
Your call now, folks!