Learning From The Worst

Greetings. While many of us were enjoying college basketball’s Final Four championship, the readers at Consumerist were holding their own “final four” of sorts to determine the worst company in America. And for the second year in a row, the winner is Electronic Arts…a leading maker of video games. It seems that the folks at EA have been running their business with a compelling disregard for their customers. Who ever thought that would be a winning formula?

But the rest of us can learn a lot from their missteps and from the elegant response to the award, or should we say defense of their performance, provided by their COO Peter Moore who replied:

Are we really the ‘Worst Company in America? I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn’t meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity. We owe gamers better performance than this. But I am damn proud of this company, the people around the globe who work at EA, the games we create and the people that play them.”

Though probably not “damn proud” enough of the people who play their games (a.k.a., their “customers”) to understand and deliver what really matters to them. And he went on to suggest that EA should never be compared to companies that pollute the planet and evict people from their homes. It’s an interesting but self-serving comparison.

In fact, customers really do matter. And the most successful companies seem to put them at the center of their decisions and actions. The companies that EA beat on the road to the trophy were three other well-known brands that customers love to hate…Ticketmaster, Bank of America, and Comcast…because they also seem to delight in taking advantge of their customers.


We win in business and in life when we pay our greatest respect to those we have the privilege to serve. And when we spend less time covering our bottoms and more time exceeding their expectations.


Big Bank, Small World

Greetings.  This week I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of executives from the China Construction Bank.  They're here in the U.S. for a three-week educational program directed by Georgetown University.  While the core of their training focuses on the risk management side of financial services, they are also interested in learning more about innovation and how to create stronger and more valuable customer relationships.  And as you might imagine, these are topics near and dear to my heart and clearly vital challenges for leading businesses all across the globe.  So the session was a great opportunity for me to learn about banking in their market and test some of my latest thinking about how to inspire people at all levels of organizations to figure out better ways of doing things that really matter.

By way of background, China Construction Bank is a very large enterprise.  With assets of $1.3 trillion, more than 13,000 branches, and over 300,000 employees, it is–according to a recent Forbes magazine survey–the 17th largest corporation in the world.  And by its own data it is the world's leading bank in terms of return on assets and equity, and No. 2 in terms of net profit.  It's also a strategic partner of Bank of America which owns a significant stake.  And while it's been a leader in business and infrastructure lending in China, it is also aggressively expanding internationally and on the retail side where it now has the world's largest number of ATMs.

And it was primarily on the retail or consumer side of banking that I spent most of my time challenging the group to thinking about new ways to engage and connect with customers.  A challenge they undertook somewhat cautiously at first and then with growing enthusiasm as we rolled up our sleeves to think "out-of-the-box" or more appropriately, "out-of-the-branch."  It turns out that less than 15% of all bank transactions today occur in a branch, so bankers need to figure out how to operate in very different ways.  By having a deeper understanding of the new world of customers.  By using technology to create a new set of banking options that include not only their computer but a host of ever cooler mobile devices.  By giving customers the opportunity to personalize their banking experience along with their credit cards, savings plans, and investments.  By becoming partners in helping customers to manage their lives more effectively.  By giving customers the opportunity to reduce their energy footprint or invest in small enterprises half way around the globe.  And, by making bank branches and the delivery of knowledge more interesting and fun.  On this last note, I suggested the possibility of creating branches that were really coffee bars or tea houses that also happened to connect visitors to a wide range of banking services.  An idea that might resonate with a new generation of consumers across a world that is getting smaller by the day.


We win in business and in life when we consistently open our eyes to a world of possibilities, and when we discover the real similarities that sometimes divide us.