Have you ever gotten spam email?
Sorry, that's actually a dumb question. Of course you have.
Or at least you've gotten calls from telemarketers — the ones who seem to know exactly when it's the worst possible time.
Why is it that they are so frustrating and annoying?
One crucial reason is that they don't treat you as a real, unique, human. They follow a script, and they don't make any effort to consider your needs (or the fact that your dinner is getting cold).
This isn't exactly a biblical business principle, but I think the same is true of your business.
Now, I know you actually care about your customers, and you treat them with respect — but I think we can learn from the telemarketers and go in the opposite direction.
We can focus on serving our customer's unique needs instead of treating them all the same — because now we can.
I've had the privilege to write a 3 article series for Business as Mission that dives deep on our relationships with employees, clients, and our community.
The second one is about our relationships with our clients.
Capitalism Treats Everyone the Same – At Least, It Used To
Capitalism – for all of the wealth and prosperity that comes with it – has many flaws. One flaw, however, is often overlooked. Capitalism causes us to stamp out uniqueness and to treat everyone as if they were exactly the same.
The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries led into the mass market revolution of the 20th century, which led us to where we are today, in the 21st century.
Along the way these revolutions significantly changed how we operate our businesses and how we treat our customers. Over time we have been trained to view other human beings as faceless numbers in a spreadsheet.
In this way it has robbed us of our ability to serve each others unique needs. It has made it more difficult for us to love and serve our customers.
But this trend is reversing. Now we have a lot more ability to serve each person's specific needs and treat them like a fellow human, while still running a successful business.
The Mass Market and Taylorism
The mass market has profoundly shaped our society – not just by creating wealth and boosting productivity, but by changing how we think.
It all started with a man named Frederick Winslow Taylor, whose ideas on what he called Scientific Management paved the way for the mass market. His innovation was simple – to apply engineering practices to the business itself.
The goal was efficiency and reliability. To reduce costs and improve profits.
To get there, workers were treated as interchangeable, replaceable cogs. Managers were there only to divide up the work and enforce the rules.
All of the products had to be the same, because it was too costly to run and maintain all of the extra machines necessary to have variations and options.
"Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black" - Henry Ford
But making products that were all the same meant that you had to sell products that were all the same. Since all of the marketing channels were the same – the same television channels, the same magazines – marketing was also mass produced.
There was no room for your specific needs, desires, or wishes. We just couldn't produce things cheaply enough (yet) to customize it for you.
Now, all of this seems quite obvious, but it's not. It's only "obvious" to us because these ideas have so permeated our culture. This focus on efficiency only started in recent history.
Reversing the Trend
Today, however, the story is a bit different...
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