What’s Being Lost While Consumerism Runs Rampant?

They say there is a new trend in town that is making Wal-Mart not have the future growth potential that it used to enjoy. That trend is world affluence and with affluence comes the choice to pay more to get something better, i.e. better customer service, higher quality of product and more choices. Even with the blow-up in the U.S. mortgage market, people are still finding ways to consume outside of their means.

For years in the United States we’ve been watching products that used to be exclusively targeted to the rich, get designed and marketed to the majority, i.e. BMW’s, Mercedes, designer watches and clothing, and even neighborhoods! I recently dropped my wash and wear Labrador Retriever off at the groomer for a $25 bath and the groomer (in her 20’s) recognized my car key and shared that she had a beamer too. Yes I have a BMW, but not only can we afford it; it’s been paid off for years. Should I mention that my dog sitter (for when I’m on business or vacation travel) drives a brand new Escalade and the woman who does my nails drives a Mercedes? My husband, a National Sales Manager for a fortune 100 company sees the Escalade drive up and jokes, I need to quit my job and become a dog walker! We do live in San Diego, which is a community contaminated by the “keep up with the Joneses” syndrome. I cringe knowing we led the country in home appreciation and now are leading the country in the housing slow-down, with foreclosures running rampant.

As a Marketing Major many moons ago at San Diego State, a part of me is thrilled and still awed at the power that marketing has on consumerism. But my 20 plus years coaching on leadership effectiveness for financial services advisors, managers and executives and what I know about the US savings rate (less than $500 per family at the beginning of 2007, per USA Today) makes me uneasy. This unabashed consumerism has to do with personal accountability and the have the “get-it-now mentality”, combined with a “me, me, me” mentality.

So how does consumerism relate to leadership? I don’t know about you but customer service seems to have taken a beating. With so many customers willing to buy, and companies trying to squeeze out as much profitability as possible to report to Wall Street, service has fallen low on the priority scale. When I poll people and ask them to share an outstanding customer service moment, most people have to reach back weeks, months or even years! Ask about a bad service moment and they can rattle off almost one per day.

If you are a leader with direct reports, what grade would you give to yourself and your team on providing outstanding service to your clients? How do you really know? What are you doing to measure your clients’ expectations and satisfaction or even better, “delight” in your area of expertise? I promise you, if you pay attention to this area, you will set yourself and your team apart from the rest, which will positively impact your sales, recruiting and retention!

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