Nimble, which has been a free social CRM tool, is about to begin charging $15 per month for business users. Said Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara in an e-mail: “It would be wonderful if we could offer Nimble for free for everyone forever; however, I know you can understand that to continue to grow and meet the needs of our users, and to continue providing super cool new technologies, it is necessary to monetize our platform.”
This is the reality of business of course. Most companies cannot do business for free.
If the movie “The Social Network” is an accurate illustration, the driving force behind Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts in creating Facebook was not to delight their users, but to make a billion dollars.
Ditto for companies like Microsoft, whose many trials, fines, and sanctions showed how the company was more obsessed with controlling the market and killing competitors than delighting customers. In the process, Microsoft often was taken to task for bundling, tying, undermining standards, and putting out immature, insecure, and buggy products to gain an edge or establish a foothold in a market sector. Microsoft's marketing, meanwhile, had a very cheery, friendly, "where do want to go today" demeanor.
Money and control continue to be the main concern of Facebook, Twitter, and Google as they engage in an escalating race to out-monetize one another, embedding more and more advertising in their services and exploiting user data, often at the expense of pleasing their users.
The commotion engulfing Klout also centers on this theme—Klout’s seeming indifference to its users and the willingness to exploit their data.
While companies may talk about delighting their customers, this is usually recognized as a means to an end, rather than the end itself.
Consultants like Peppers & Rogers, meanwhile, have made an entire career out of telling companies that the way to succeed is to care about your customers—which shows that this is something companies need to learn.
The saccharine façade that pervades many organizations and their “About Us” and mission statements is another story.
To truly please their customers would require many companies to scrap or completely overhaul their products, services, and cultures. This is rarely done. More often the modus operandi is to “perfume the pig” and “sell what’s on the truck.” Ever heard of cloud washing?
This same mentality is seen in the treatment of workers in today’s economy. Recall IBM CEO Sam Palmisano in the news with President Obama, smiling and pledging to support Obama’s effort to act responsibly to help stimulate jobs and end the recession, while the next day IBM secretly laid off thousands of workers and denied it to the media, while raking in billions in profits that quarter.
In the movie “Assassination of a High School President” the voice on the phone says, “Let me give you a freebie, kid. Money's got something to do with everything.”
Current movies like “Inside Job,” Margin Call,” and “The Ides of March” offer an accurate reflection of where we are.
The joke here is that “transparency” is the wisdom so often prescribed for succeeding in social media.
Along these lines, Olivier Blanchard wrote an excellent blog in which he says, “You already know what’s right. And by ‘right,’ I don’t just mean ‘ethical’ or what you can get away with. I mean ‘right.’ Do that.”
There are, of course, companies that care about their customers, employees, and society at large (and Nimble may be one of them). But so many seem not to be.
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