A sure-fire Rx for short-term profits (and long-term loss)

MrPotterWhat do many Fortune 500 chief executive officers have in common with Rochdale Securities analyst Richard X. Bove? A maniacal pursuit of short-term profits instead of long-term strategies.

To be sure, CEOs have an excuse: Wall Street investors and their boards of directors are laser-focused on quarter-by-quarter performance. And, the average CEO’s tenure rivals that of a Mayfly.

But, Bove has no such out. His job is to follow the financial services sector and report on best and worst practices. And, Bove thinks customer service is the wrong way to attract customers!

Based on a recent first-hand experience with Wells Fargo, Bove believes all banks should push products and service rather than catering to customers’ whims. Reflecting on Wells Fargo in particular, he said, “I’m struck by the fact that the service is so bad, and yet the company is so good.”

Ouch. As one might expect, a Wells Fargo spokesperson immediately responded and, naturally, emphasized the giant bank’s focus on delighting customers. And, yet, I fear CEOs and institutional investors will be whipped into a frenzy by Bove’s myopic viewpoint and double down on product development and risk management. That’s worrisome because it will only produce a short-term spike in sales while damaging the long-term image and reputation of those banks that pursue a parochial path to profits.

Bove seems to have literally lost sight of the modern reality. The customer is king (or queen). Period. The best product in the world can’t overcome a horrible experience. And, it can absolutely kill a mediocre or inferior product. Worse still, a single-minded focus on product and profits will undermine the authenticity and credibility of any marketing message from a bank.

In our partnership work with author and customer service expert, Emily Yellin, we’ve analyzed every brand from Starbucks and Comcast to Sony and T.J. Maxx. And, in almost every instance we’ve uncovered a disconnect between what the brand promises and what we, placing ourselves in the customers’ shoes, actually experienced. And, therein lies the rub (and the opportunity).

Smart CEOs should be taking the exact opposite tack than the one suggested by Bove. They should elevate the role of the chief customer contact executive and empower the customer service representatives to participate in the brand messaging. The latter, and the latter alone, have first-person knowledge of what does, and doesn’t, delight the target audience.

Alas, the average chief executive is far more concerned about his personal compensation and golden parachute than in focusing on a long-term strategy that includes superb customer service. For every enlightened Tony Hsieh at Zappos there are far too many Richard X. Bove clones occupying the corner office. And, Bove’s clarion call is a real red flag to this blogger. It’s a sure fire prescription for short-term profits (and long-term loss).

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