Saturday, April 29, 2023

What Does It Mean if AI Can Convey More Empathy Than Humans?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash
Deep thoughts for your weekend: I'm not sure what it means that ChatGPT can respond to patient questions with greater quality and empathy than human doctors, but it's nothing good.

A study used questions posted to Reddit’s r/AskDocs. It looked at doctor responses to those questions and compared them to ChatGPT responses to the same questions. These responses were evaluated in triplicate by a team of licensed health care professionals.

Generative AI responses were evaluated as both “significantly higher quality than physician responses” and “significantly more empathetic than physician responses.” It was no contest. The proportion of responses rated as good/very good quality was 3.5x higher for chatbot than physicians, and the proportion of responses rated empathetic/very empathetic was almost 10x higher for chatbot than for physicians.

"The proportion of responses rated empathetic or very empathetic (≥4) was higher for chatbot than for physicians. This amounted to 9.8 times higher prevalence of empathetic or very empathetic responses for the chatbot."

No one is suggesting a chatbot can replace your doctor. If anything, this study may suggest that AI can improve patient experience while increasing physician efficiency. Still, I find it distressing that ChatGPT can already demonstrate better “bedside manner” (or, perhaps, “screenside manner”) than doctors.

People will argue AI cannot express empathy since hardware and software are incapable of having empathy. Maybe, but if generative AI responses are perceived as more empathetic, then it is hard to argue that AI isn't incontrovertibly able to convey empathy effectively. (If a tree doesn't fall in the woods, yet everyone hears it fall, has it really fallen?)

I'll leave it to philosophers to figure out what's true or not regarding AI and empathy, but I think studies like this should be a wake-up call. Another recent study found that AI was more effective than human reviewers at evaluating ultrasounds. If AI is faster, better, and more empathetic than humans--I mean, what's left?

And AI is really just getting started. The next five years will bring a giant pile of money into R&D to rapidly improve AI capabilities. PwC plans to spend $1B in three years on AI, and Meta (which just laid off 13% of its staff) is investing $33 billion in AI this year, and that's just the tip of the AI iceberg.

Investors won't dedicate that cash out of a desire to improve customer experiences but to seek rapid return. As with all tech advances, this either creates new markets and raises revenues or it increases margins by decreasing costs, and for most companies, labor costs are the greatest cost.

It doesn't feel as if we humans will want to lose the battle for empathy against AI. I don't mean to get all philosophical on you, but this doesn't just feel like a battle for our jobs but our souls.

We live in a world of surging division, road rage, online bullying, air rage, and mass shootings. It feels like we need to seek a renewed sense of community with greater sensitivity, concern, and care for each other. Apocalyptic sci-fi tales like Terminator saw us battle AI robots for our lives, not us battling each other and then turning to machines for comfort and empathy. The battle against AI for empathy feels like one we desperately need to win.

Monday, March 27, 2023

The FTC's Proposed “Click to Cancel” Could Help or Hurt Your Brand. Which Will It Be?

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
My peer, Ben Bloom, raised a provocative question: Will the proposed Federal Trade Commission “click to cancel” rule help or hurt brands? Like virtually everything in business, I believe the answer depends on a brand's customer-centric culture, the customer understanding it has or collects, and its commitment to #CustomerExperience. It's clear how this proposal could hurt some brands, but smart brands can beat (and should already be beating) the FTC to the punch with a winning #CX.

If you're not familiar with the proposed “click to cancel” rule, it is a simple idea that all of us will applaud as consumers: It would require businesses to make it at least as easy to cancel a subscription as it was to start it. For example, if you can sign up online, you must be able to cancel on the same website in the same number of steps.

The fact “click to cancel” must be forced upon companies is a sign of how difficult it is to achieve customer-centric decisions in a company, particularly at the moment of customer abandonment. For a new or loyal customers, the advantages of experiences that encourage satisfaction and loyalty are evident, but what's the value of making it easy for customers to depart? The business benefit of keeping customers is immediately evident (revenue!) while the dangers of poor CX at the moment of churn are less so (damaged reputation and a reduced chance to recapture the customer). You can almost hear brand leaders thinking, “Well, if cancelers are pissed off to begin with, then what's the danger of more frustration?”

But, let's face it--this should already be a no-brainer for brands. You and I both know this policy is a painfully obvious idea in the customer side of our brain, yet business leaders will likely fight this proposal rule tooth and nail. Any resources and effort your organization may be inclined to dedicate to lobbying against the rule really ought to go into making the rule superfluous for your brand. Brands can win with a thoughtful, customer-centric approach.

Today, it's too easy to tell customers they have to call your company to cancel, placing the retention burden on call center employees. That not only frustrates people and risks brand damage, it is also a terrible, frustrating employee experience as well. But if customers must be able to cancel as easily as they purchased or subscribed, smart brands will: 
  • Listen more and resolve drivers of dissatisfaction and churn. If some brands face an impending cancelation Armageddon, the first and most obvious course should be to minimize and eliminate the reasons customers want to leave. Many companies do a lousy job of listening to customer feedback and investing to resolve causes of customer friction. Often, this is because the economic value of doing so isn't evident, but this new FTC policy tips the cost/benefit equation and makes the financial benefits more evident.
  • Identify and react to customer warning signals. The prior suggestion was about understanding and fixing the top aggregate reasons for churn; this idea is more about identifying and proactively reacting to customers most at risk of churning. Some customers will abandon brands unexpectedly, but for most, there will be signals: Reduced usage or frequency, declining engagement, more customer care interactions, and dissatisfied survey responses. Brands should be monitoring and proactively responding to these abandonment signals rather than waiting for the cancelation request. An offer of a free month to someone threatening to end a subscription can seem a desperate, too-little-too-late brand ploy, while a surprise offer of a free month to an existing (albeit declining) customer can be a loyalty-building delight.
  • Consider customer personas to improve the overall experience and offer the most powerful retention offers. Brands tend to rely on the negotiating skills of employees to prevent abandonment, turning each instance into a one-on-one negotiation. “Click to cancel” will force brands to automate this process, which means they need to understand each customers' persona. A budget-minded customer struggling to make ends meet will be responsive to an offer of reduced subscription fees, while a more value-oriented customer may be encouraged to stay by adding services that would otherwise require additional payments. Or, think of Netflix: Knowing which fan is into scifi versus romantic comedies can help the brand promote the most desirable upcoming content to try to keep customers.
  • Implement a constant test-and-learn approach to finding the best retention offers. The solution isn't to find the one-and-only best offer; instead, constantly test what effectively retains customers. This should be a ceaseless process because today's answers may not be the same as next year's, depending on changes in the economy, competitive landscape, and your brand's offerings.
  • Finally, earn the right to keep in touch. If the customer is committed to abandoning, then do what you can to improve your future ability to recapture the lost customer. Don't assume you can continue to spam lost customers; instead, ask for permission to keep people on your email list and offer options. For example, a lost customer probably won't want your daily marketing message but might be interested in a once-a-month update on improvements you've made to your product or service.
“Click to cancel” could help or hurt a brand. Do the right things to prevent churn, earn loyalty, respond to cancelation requests, and ease the path to continued engagement and recapture, and your brand can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and minimize abandonment.

Monday, March 20, 2023

GPT-4 and AI Can Enhance or Kill Your Brand--Which Depends On What You Do Next

Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash
A lot of digital ink has been rapidly dedicated to what ChatGPT, GPT4, and AI means to Customer Experience. Inevitably, these articles focus on how AI can increase the efficiency of or replace employees in touchpoints on the customer journey. The fact this is the first thing so many think of when it comes to AI is thoroughly disappointing. I think the real story of the future of AI and CX is more troubling, complex, and important. 

AI Is Only the Latest Evolution in the Brand-Customer Journey

We must start by appreciating how the relationship between brands and customers has always been unequal in different ways. On the one hand, brands (literally) profit from these relationships. For all the humanizing talk of brand love, trust, loyalty, and other terminology marketers borrow from the language of human relationships, this remains a commercial relationship that exists only for one party to extract money from the other. The best brands get their CX so right that customers don't mind--in fact, loyal customers want their trusted, valued brands to be profitable, healthy, and sustainable.

On the other hand, customers can often have unreasonable expectations of brands, and in particular, employees. I'm not talking here about how customers will always want their products and services to be cheaper, faster, and better--that's inevitable--but how customers treat (or mistreat) the employees with whom they interact. You can't spend any time in social media without seeing a video of a customer physically attacking or screaming invective at an unlucky retail or hospitality employee. My wife worked in customer care for years, and it infuriated me that people felt perfectly free to abuse her using slurs I cannot share.

Brands want employees to be more empathetic to customers while increasing productivity. Customers want more, faster and better from employees. And caught in the middle of this battle of unequal expectations are human employees. Now, along comes AI with a seeming solution.

AI Can Seem Like the Perfect Customer Experience Solution, But Is It?

On the one hand, the tech promises to give the accurate, immediate answers that customers demand and to do it without all the mess and expense of PTO, unplanned absences, benefits, hiring, and churn. And on the other hand, customers can hurl insults at an AI to their heart's content, and the AI won't get flustered or have its feelings hurt.

AI replacing humans feels like the inevitable conclusion of a situation where parties on both sides of the brand-customer relationship collude to treat employees less like humans and more like inanimate objects. Employers frequently speak of employees as “family” while treating them more like PCs that can be easily replaced, discarded, or updated. And customers too often pretend the target for their frustration isn't a human being but a robot or kiosk. Why not replace workers with tech, since we pretend that's all they are, anyway?

So, I guess all of our problems are solved! AI to the rescue--blazingly fast and efficient, endlessly scalable, (probably) more accurate, and infinitely patient. Problem solved! Or, is it? How often has new tech promised to solve a problem only to create new ones? The answer is always, but that doesn't mean that adopting technology isn't the right and inevitable answer. So, what difficulties are we likely to create as AI not merely enhances but replaces employees?

The Potential Problems of AI Are Both Obvious and Not

The most obvious concern with AI replacing humans is that humans still need employment. I've focused in this post on customer care because those employed in these jobs best exemplify the workers caught in the brand-customer paradox, but AI obviously doesn't stop there. While customer service accounts for 2.9 million jobs in the US, digital transformation imminently threatens other categories. In just the past week, GPT-4 has already:

I wish I had a solution to offer, but the potential economic and societal risks must be considered by brighter minds than mine. What I can focus on, however, are the other potential issues brands may have as they integrate AI into their customer journeys.

For example, one issue that business leaders forget time after time is that new tech often starts looking like a solution for corporations but inevitably has a profound impact on customer expectations. Brands welcomed the Internet but didn't immediately foresee how it would change customer expectations of the 24/7 availability and speed they get from corporations. Brands welcomed social media as a new “free” channel to reach customers before appreciating that customers would more talk ABOUT them than WITH them.

And so it is with AI. The same tech that makes it easy for corporations to improve productivity in their customer interactions will also make it easier for customers to negotiate lower prices and better deals. My peer, Penny Gillespie, is researching a future that isn't human customers talking to your brand's AI, but customer bots and brand bots negotiating the brand journey with brutal efficiency and speed. The outcome will be more pressure for your brand to offer competitive pricing, customize offerings, and be ready for any and all customer needs (or else their customer advobots will shift to competitors in nanoseconds.) How will brand loyalty be shaped when customer decisions are made by machines and not people? Find out by reading a new book, “When Machines Become Customers,” by my Gartner peers Don Scheibenreif and Mark Raskino.  

The CX Solution Is To First Understand Where, When and How AI Will Be Valued By Customers

Despite all the enthusiasm by VCs, startups and brand executives, we still don't know how much customers will be willing to replace humans with machines at every touchpoint. We have decades of experience with “the Uncanny Valley”, including everything from the creepy, dead-eyed characters of the movie, “Polar Express” to the rigid, frustrating interactions with corporate IVR (A/K/A “voice jail”) systems. Do we really think that an AI expressing it “understands why that would be frustrating” to customers will do more good than harm?

Some corporate executives will be quick to foresee a future of infinite self-service (and endless cost savings) by replacing employees with AI. Smarter leaders will move quickly but cautiously to understand not just where AI brings value to business results, but where customers value AI and where they value human interactions in the customer journey. Deploying AI to the right customers in the right places at the right time will separate brands that improve their customer experience and relationships from those that do not.

The first step in our AI future isn't to rapidly digitize every customer experience. Instead, you must start by understanding the customers you serve and their expectations, needs, and wants. What customers are more open to greater self-service and interactions with bots, and which are not? If you can't tell the difference, you aren't ready for AI-managed CX. That's just the first question of many: In which touchpoints are humans most valued?
  • In which touchpoints will customers most appreciate AI experiences?
  • How will you proactively recognize the best digital or human journey to orchestrate?
  • How will you recognize what the customer wants and needs at the moment and match that to your available products, services, and experiences?
  • How will you change the development of your products, services, and experiences to allow for greater real-time response and customization?
  • How will you grant customers to control the type of experience they want?
  • How will you recognize when AI experiences require a human escalation?
  • How will you measure the impact of AI customer experiences, not just to your costs but to perception and loyalty of your customers?

Before you start worrying about the state of your tech stack and data, these are the questions you must first answer. The answers will tell you where to focus your energies to strengthen customer relationships rather than simply create better margins.

The thing to remember about AI is that it must first serve humans. Using AI with a customer-centric lens is the future to strong customer relationships and brand success. But corporations that only adopt AI with a brand-centric viewpoint will simply find very efficient, effective, and speedy ways to destroy their customer satisfaction, reputation, and relationships.

This post was written manually without any assistance from an AI, which is probably evident because of any grammatical mistakes I made. Please forgive any human foibles. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Are Your Loyalty Metrics Damaging Your Customer Loyalty?

Photo by William Warby on Unsplash
Everyone knows the adage, “You can't improve what you don't measure.” That quote, often attributed to Peter Drucker, is not entirely true, but I think it needs a vital and new corollary: “You can damage what you don't measure accurately.” After decades in Customer Experience, I've come to believe this is, in fact, the primary issue that impairs most organizations' CX efforts and undermines their customer loyalty.

The goal of CX is to strengthen relationships and increase customers' loyalty to the brand. But what is loyalty? It isn't a business metric but an attitude. One can feel loyal to a person or product. That sense of affinity or faithfulness can then manifest in behaviors. And those behaviors are measurable.

That chain of attitudes-behaviors-measures goes unexplored by business leaders, and it leads to bad metrics for loyalty and poor business or CX strategy. To too many executives, loyalty merely means purchases: “If we get more sales from customers, they must be loyal.” But are they?

With bad measurement of loyalty, customer marketing can look a lot like customer experience. Both are focused on existing customers, but where customer marketing creates efforts to maximize revenue from customers, CX is about strengthening relationships. Both lead to sales, but they are critically different.

Let's say you have a truly loyal customer. You launch a campaign for a new product line, and being loyal, that customer makes a purchase. That's a customer marketing success, but is it a CX one? Not yet. That additional sale didn't create loyalty but earned you the chance to strengthen loyalty. Whether you do or do not improve that customer's loyalty depends on the CX your product, service, and organization provides.

If that product fails to deliver value or disappoints the customer, it can weaken your relationship and damage loyalty. If that happens, you will have raised short-term revenue, but damaged long-term loyalty, which can lead to churn, diminished sales, a decreased lifetime value, and negative WOM and reputation.

This isn't to say there's anything wrong with customer marketing or that short-term sales to existing customers is a poor metric, but customer marketing isn't CX and short-term sales are a poor measure of CX success. Customer marketing and CX are two different disciplines with different sets of metrics. If we confuse them and measure CX badly, we may not simply undermine our CX performance but actively damage our brands' loyalty.

In my job as an analyst and advisor, I see a lot of this. Companies expend a great deal of time and money to “improve CX,” set awful goals and metrics, and, as a result, hurt rather than enhance their customer relationships. This can take many forms--do any of these sound like your organization's CX efforts and measures?
  • “We improved CX by implementing self-service tools on our site, leading to a decrease in call volume and reduction of call center staff.” Great business results, but did those new self-service tools help customers or frustrate them? Did they gain the answers they need or leave your site to find answers elsewhere? Did it improve satisfaction for all customers, or did it annoy some customers and damage their perception of your brand? If you don't measure the experience from the perspective of the customer, it's not CX, because you can't know whether you've strengthened relationships and improved loyalty.
  • “CX is improving because we saw greater revenue and earned growth from existing customers year-over-year.” Terrific news, but did you earn those new sales by discounting prices and lowering margin? Earning strong loyalty means you keep and grow customer relationships, lifting margins without affecting perceptions of price fairness. This is how, for example, Apple can command 80% of the operating profits in the smartphone industry while representing just 40% of the sales. And it is why Starbucks' stock has outperformed the S&P 500 by 75% in the past five years while charging 2.5 to 5x what it costs to make a cup of coffee at home.
  • “We improved our CX by implementing personalization tools on our website, lifting conversion rate by 20%.” Congratulations, but did your customers get the value they anticipated from your product? Were they satisfied? Did they become repeat customers, or was your cost of acquisition greater than those customers' fleeting lifetime value? A higher conversion rate is a measure of sales, marketing or ecommerce success, not a way to quantify loyalty (at least in the absence of additional data points).

In the CX world, we talk about the difference between behavioral loyalty and attitudinal loyalty:
  • Behavioral loyalty is measured in ways such as frequency of purchase, organic sales growth, retention, and lifetime value. But, are those really measures of loyalty? Certainly, some share of repeat purchases are derived from customers who feel loyal to your brand, but many purchases likely come out of habit, because you're cheaper or more convenient, or because switching costs are high. But if any of those conditions change, your brand can rapidly and painfully discover how little loyalty it actually earns.
  • Attitudinal loyalty measures customers' perception of and intent toward your brand--their Net Promoter Score (NPS), satisfaction scores (CSAT), or their likelihood to repurchase. But while behavioral loyalty is what is reflected on this quarter's income statement, it is attitudinal loyalty that drives next year's financial results. Behavioral loyalty is a lagging measure of what people did, but attitudinal loyalty is what they'll (probably) do in the future.
It is that parenthetical “probably” that causes so many bad CX metrics and decisions. I hear people discount attitudinal measures, saying things like, “Many people who are promoters don't buy, and many detractors keep buying.” Funny, but I never hear a marketer suggest they shouldn't measure brand awareness, even though people who know the brand don't buy, and many newly acquired customers often didn't know the brand prior to consideration.

More to the point, not only does decades of research tell us that attitudinal measures of loyalty are strongly associated with behavioral loyalty actions, business leaders can and should measure this themselves using their existing data. Gartner research demonstrates that firms that know the relationship between customer satisfaction and business results are a third more likely to say they exceed expectations for improving customer perception. And firms that establish the correlation between customer satisfaction and financial outcomes are 29% more likely to report CX budget increases (while being a third less likely to report decreases). Gartner clients can learn more in our report, “Prove the ROI Business Case of Customer Experience Programs While Staying Customer-Centric” (subscription required).

Business leaders measure customer loyalty badly because they measure what they most value--dollars--but you can damage what you don't measure accurately. That means counting dollars while ignoring decaying attitudinal loyalty is an extraordinarily effective way to damage your brand over time. Business history is littered with examples of brands who were confident that their longstanding, profit-building, market-share-commanding behavioral loyalty was more important than customers' attitudinal loyalty. But had Kodak, Circuit City, Borders, Sears, taxi companies and dozens of other dead or sagging brands been listening, their futures were written in the attitudinal loyalty data they collected.

Change your CX metrics, change your future. It's as simple as that. If you fail to show how leading, customer-centric measures of attitudinal loyalty create future value for stakeholders, your brand will fall into the trap of mistaking purchases for behavioral loyalty. Today's sales are today's dollars earned, but it's your customers' attitudinal loyalty that tell you whether you'll earn or lose tomorrow's customers, purchases, and dollars.

Don't just earn dollars. Earn loyalty. Measure it properly, and your brand can soar. Do it wrong, and you'll waste a lot of efforts on “CX programs” that damage rather than enhance your customer relationships.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Seven Ways for Corporations to be Ethical

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash
I believe in a world where corporations can balance being good with being profitable. It's why I focus on Customer Experience for a living. But it's also undeniable that corporations frequently act to the detriment of customer health and safety.

What does it take for corporations to be ethical? Entire books are written about that, and I'm not going to definitively answer that question here, but I think it's a topic worthy of exploration with some obvious top-level solutions.

Leaders of companies often make customer-hostile decisions in countless ways, from tiny (like difficult return policies) to enormous (that harm people's wellbeing). Some of the largest ways corporations act to hurt people involve producing dangerous products, for example: 
We could make a much lengthier list of examples; in fact, the tobacco industry was so effective at obscuring the health dangers of smoking that today, other industries are said to take a page from their “playbook,” including energy companies, the NFL, alcohol companies, Facebook, vaping companies, and more.

I even see evidence of this same decision-making in today's corporate #COVID19 policies regarding work in offices, conferences, and store policies. It will take months to tabulate the data, but as of Fall 2022, COVID was on track to the third leading cause of death in the US for the third year in a row. We know COVID is mutating, that vaccine immunity is fading, and that COVID can cause longer-term chronic damage. There is no question that the world remains in the grip of an ongoing pandemic (with dangerous new variants rising at present.) So, why is virtually every company willingly permitting and urging risky activities and environments?

The argument seems to be that each employee or customer is informed and can make their own decision about COVID risks. But, if employers knowingly asked people to subject themselves to a chemical that was the third-leading cause of death, we would not consider that acceptable. And yet, corporate leaders are collaborating with employees and customers to continue exposing large numbers of people to a virus that continues to fill hospitals and is harming the economy.

I'm not here to criticize companies; my job is to help them. While the examples above may be greater in scale, are the drivers of these corporate decisions really that different from the self-interested decisions most people make every day?

We know that driving our car or taking a flight harms the environment. We also are aware that failing to wear a mask while in crowds lifts risks for everyone else. Yet, we do these and other things for personal finance, convenience, and social acceptance. So do companies. Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” We'd all like to believe we'd make better decisions, but if we were executive leaders who find our profitable product harms people, how eager would we be to sacrifice our income, security, reputation, and job to rapidly abandon that product?

Which raises the question in the title of this post: What does it take for corporations to be ethical? There are things companies can do to be better, but in some respects, the answer starts with you (and me and everyone else.) As consumers, we need to hold brands to higher standards and realize every dollar we spend and minute we dedicate is a vote for the brand. (For example, after 13 years on Twitter, I've joined many others who made the personal decision to stop participating on the platform.) And, as voters, we should consider the role of government oversight in regulating the safety of our products (be that the mental health implications of social media, the security of our financial systems, the safety of the cars we drive, the long-term impact of or the energy we produce, or the dangers of products on store shelves.) Some believe in “laissez-faire” corporate policies, but I believe history tells us our economic, financial and public health are greater with the proper level of government oversight and corporate participation.

Within corporations, there are many things we can do to improve ethical, employee- and customer-centric decisions: 
  • Strive for greater transparency, collaboration, and employee empowerment: It helps to improve the transparency of information and how decisions are made. This means allowing people both inside and outside the organization to raise concerns without fear of retaliation. It also means sharing more information, both inside and outside the organization. Reporting, for example, on your DEI initiatives is one way to bring light to your corporate actions and values. It is much harder to make dubious decisions when more people are informed and involved.
  • Commit to improved customer listening: The more you listen to your customers and understand their needs and perceptions, the easier it is to make customer-centric decisions. Too many companies collect and then largely ignore the voice of their customers. Make it a priority to listen and emphasize the needs and expectations of your customers in important decisions.
  • Focus on corporate reputation and long-term success: Short-term focus can kill companies. Decisions made to drive today's revenue and profit at the expense of an organization's reputation or long-term success shortens the lifespan of corporations. Boards and leaders must consider the ways in which leader performance is measured and rewarded to be sure top-level decisions are made with an eye toward the future and not just this year's stock performance.
  • Define and reinforce corporate values: Many organizations have values, but fewer live by them. Make sure your values aren't something locked (and forgotten) in employee handbooks, but are ever-present and repeatedly reinforced expectations to which employees and leaders hold themselves accountable. Promote examples of times when leaders or employees rely on your values to make decisions that might have seemed wrong had only short-term financial concerns been considered.
  • Consider ethical employee recognition and rewards: Too often, virtually all employee performance and rewards are based around short-term financial goals of efficiency, cost savings, and immediate success. You don't encourage ethical behaviors by demanding one thing of employees and then rewarding another. Consider ways to balance your performance appraisals, promotions, and incentive programs so that people are encouraged to make decisions aligned with your values and not just dollars.
  • Model ethical behaviors: There is no substitute for top-down ethics in an organization. Everyone watches and repeats the way leaders behave because they believe that is what is expected, what's accepted, and what gets them promoted. Too many leaders think they lead with words and policies when, in fact, every leader (great and terrible) leads by the example they demonstrate in their daily interactions throughout the organization.
  • Be open about mistakes and missteps. Finally, it's important for ethical organizations to learn, and there's no way to do that if people feel they must hide mistakes or deflect blame. Many leaders talk a good game about embracing failure, but many employees fear that mistakes, if acknowledged, will become a “can tied their tail.” If we allow people to think they must be perfect, or they'll sacrifice their reputations and careers, we encourage dishonesty and self-interest.
As consumers, can demand more of the brands we buy (and don't buy). And as employees and leaders, we can implement the processes that encourage ethical actions and model the behaviors we expect of others. But will we? That's up to you.