Do you ever feel like you have a target on your back? Like companies are trying to manipulate you, telling you what you want to hear so that you will buy their products or use their services?  Do the companies that you buy from or work for, see a person as a potential customer, or a potential customer as a person?

The phrase "six degrees of separation" (or the more pop-culture reference: "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon") may be helpful as a metaphor here. Any product or service sold can be said to have a benefit for the customer, or else it wouldn't exist in the marketplace (or not for long anyway). So, by definition, every business is in the business of "helping" people somewhere along the line. The question is where? And does it matter? At Affinity Plus, we think it does. We think that if an individual customer benefits from a decision made, even if the organization doesn't, then it's still a good decision. Crazy? Maybe.

If every potential customer is a person first, then helping the person means that they remain a potential customer.

If every person is a potential customer, once we put the organization first, we might hurt the customer, thereby hurting their ability to ever become a customer.

It's a life philosophy that just happens to be a sound business strategy. 

In contrast, with this philosophy are the companies such as those that made  MSN Money's 2011 Customer Service Hall of Shame (four of the "top" 10 are financial institutions). Why did these companies top the list? Consumer advocates say it's because people don't trust companies they think are trying to take advantage of or exploit them.

What many companies fail to understand is that you can do the right thing for individuals, even at the expense of profit and still run a very successful business. For example, CEO of Affinity Plus, Kyle Markland, leads all employees to place  the individual success and value for each customer (known as "members") of Affinity Plus above any other consideration, including financial results for the organization. 

Perhaps surprising to some, this philosophy has resulted in the incredible growth in assets, from $357 million in 1997 to over $2.0 billion total assets under management today. The number of members Affinity Plus serves has doubled during Mr. Markland’s tenure from 70,000 to over 140,000. In the last two years, Affinity Plus has experienced 6% growth in members each year, far outpacing the industry. Better yet, 80% of all new members are referrals from other members who refer their friends and family. Finally, members indicate their high level of satisfaction with an average Net Promoter score of nearly 85%, one of the highest in the industry and when asked whether they trust Affinity Plus, an impressive 95% of all members say “yes.” 

Affinity Plus is not alone in believing and acting on the philosophy that people, not profit come first. But, these results clearly speak for themselves. Putting people first is a good thing.

Do you think that helping people is just a positive byproduct of the development and sales of products and services, or should helping people be the first goal? Do you think it matters if the outcome is essentially the same (profit for the company, value for the customer)?


About the Author: Angela has 20 years of customer service and sales experience. She believes that doing the right thing for the right reason matters.