Slate calls the Lenovo hack one of the worst customer betrayals ever. The PC manufacturer Lenovo sold hackers the keys to your checking account for a few dollars. Put another way. Lenovo installed code that effectively disabled every form of security, anti-virus, or encryption you could possible put on your computer. Lenovo installed this malware on every computer it produced for several years.
And they did it for a little profit.
I’m sure Lenovo’s marketing collateral talks about its customers and how much customers matter. It’s all lies, like the lies so many companies print in marketing collateral and annual reports and CEO speeches. The only thing Lenovo cares about is taking money from customers. If the customer dies, so what? There’s another one born every minute.
Lenovo’s Not Alone
I overheard a business conversation a few weeks ago that went something like this:
Employee: I’m just looking out for my customer’s best interest.
Boss: Well, I'd hope you’re looking out for our best interest.
In one sentence, that boss obliterated any hope of customer-centricity in her company. She exposed herself as liar for all the times she stood on a stage and talked about how much she cares about her customers.
Like Lenovo, this boss’s concern for customers begins and ends with her customer’s money. Once she’s taken a customer’s money, the customer can go to hell.
Putting your company’s profit interests above the well-being of your customers will lead you to decisions like Lenovo’s. You’ll eventually give hackers the keys to customers’ checking accounts for a share of the ill-gotten gains.
You are too good a person to fall into that trap. But how do you avoid it?
9 Principles to Avoid Evil and Promote Purpose
If you want to avoid doing evil, here are eight principles your company should live by. Most of these principles are not mine. I got them from smart people like Derek Sivers and Peter Drucker. And I admit that I do not always live by these principles. I try to, but it isn’t easy.
- “Never forget that everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision—even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone—according to what’s best for your customers.” – Derek Sivers
- “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. . . . It is the customer who determines what a business is. It is the customer alone whose willingness to pay for a good or for a service converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. . . . The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence.” – Peter Drucker
- “Operate like you don’t want the money—people will be happy to pay you.”—Derek Sivers
- “Don’t punish everyone for one person’s mistake.” —Derek Sivers
- Be crystal clear about everything you say or write. Avoid jargon, buzzwords, and clichés. Practice using real words like Project Change Agreement and Statement of Work. Identify precisely the things you reference. Don’t assume “SOW” means the same the thing to you as it does to the person who hears you say it, especially if you’re talking to a hog farmer.
- Know what the customer wants or needs. What the customer wants to buy might be different from what you think you’re selling.
- Eliminate every possible task. Eliminate before optimizing or you’ll end up doing the wrong thing faster.
- Customers pay you to get things done, not for the time it takes you to do them. If a new web page is worth $50,000, it doesn’t matter to the customer whether it takes you one hour or 1,000 hours to build it.
- Understand that urgent matters are not necessarily important. Champions do the important stuff. Plenty of also-rans scramble over the urgent.
If profit is your only purpose, you might augh at these nine principles. But it won’t be so funny when the press calls your company “the next Lenovo.”