When it comes to customer relations and CSR, many companies are finding that a small group of customers are making their voices heard louder and louder through every forum available to them—which are abundant is today’s digital age. An article from TriplePundit.com, “Do Bad Customer Relations and Good Business Go Hand in Hand?” raised an interesting question about the state of sustainability as it relates to business today. Do customers really care about a company’s participation in sustainability and CSR issues? Does a lack of participation influence customer’s decision to stay loyal to the brand or not?
The article cites a few examples of companies whose business is largely unaffected by their unorthodox (and sometimes nonexistent) CSR and sustainability practices. “How many people don’t buy on Amazon.com because the company is refusing to measure and report its carbon emissions? How many people don’t buy at Whole Foods because the company doesn’t release a sustainability report or doesn’t have a climate change policy? The answer is probably not too many.”
Although the larger audience is somewhat apathetic towards these issues, the smaller audience is growing rapidly, and their cries of injustice do have an impact on the way a company’s brand is perceived. This can be seen with Bank of America’s $5 debit card fee that infuriated customers, and was eventually appealed due to a petition posted on “Change.org that attracted more than 300,000 supporters.” The same can be said of Bank of America’s attempt to maintain overdraft fees for customers affected by Hurricane Sandy, which they also ended up appealing due to customer dissatisfaction.
The bottom line is that organizations should not be shortsighted in their decision-making, especially when it comes to customer relations and CSR. The smaller group is gaining ground, bringing light to the broader issues companies face. Bank of America’s setbacks are just one example of what backlash companies can experience by thinking only about short-term profits. This global conversation is only becoming more influential as it has brought new meaning to the idea that balance is the key to creating a corporate brand that has integrity—both in their social responsibility efforts and their responsibility to shareholders. It’s not easy to achieve, but its well worth the time. When a company is associated with social responsibility, and its initiatives don’t come across as self-serving, they are more likely to do well by doing good.