Thinking about ethical issues in businesses makes me squirm. I’m sure it makes you squirm too. However, ethics form the core of any business and ensure loyal customers who become advocates of your work.
I want to show you how to operate without being ethical in business (just in case you wanted to chuck those good, old values out the window).
Last month I was working as a saleswoman for a corporation. A born and raised Midwest girl, I thrived in this position because I was honest and open with the customers. I loved seeing their reactions when I magically found their book.
However, I still had to adhere to my employer’s customer service policy, one that revolved around: We can’t do anything. You’ll have to call customer service. I can’t even tell you how many little old ladies railed on me about that but, honestly, my employers wouldn’t let me help the customers. The company’s need to drive sales led me to telling everyone in the store about a specific book, regardless if they were the target market. At Christmastime, the busiest time for retailers, we were informed not to let anyone leave the registers without upgrading their paid memberships. I felt like a member of the mob!
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As an employee, I constantly had to stop being ethical in business to keep my job. Every day I would come home and rant to my fish (my boyfriend quickly learned how to tune me out) about how it infuriated me to treat customers like that. I can’t imagine why anyone enjoyed shopping there.
Apparently people didn’t enjoy shopping there because the company declared bankruptcy suddenly and closed 300 of their stores, including mine.
Still think you want to sidestep those ethical issues in businesses? I didn’t think so.
Thanks to a friend, I’m now working part-time for a one-woman creative force. Her ethics reflect my own and it’s no wonder her customers love her. Instead of forgetting about being ethical in business, she makes sure that:
- Everyone is addressed personally.
- There are clear policies, but depending on the situation, they can be changed.
- Employees and customers can leave feedback and ideas to improve the business. (Personally, this is my favorite because at my old job, I was not allowed to voice my opinions, even though I had some great innovative ideas.)
- She actively seeks out new ways to help her customers better their own businesses. If that doesn’t generate good karma, I don’t know what does.
When the ethics of the shop owner and the customer align (or better yet, when the owner’s are shaped to meet and exceed the customer’s needs), a bond is formed. Trust deepens, the need for your items grows, and the desire to spread the word about you flares. The trick is to stay true to your beliefs.
Are you all about customer service? Intent on saving the environment? Inspired to help others meet their potential? Then remember the times when you loved shopping somewhere. How were you treated? What made the best impressions on you?
By offering people an amazing product and amazing service that is centered round your immutable ethics, you create a business that will draw customers back again and again.
photo: “The Philosophy of Ethics” by diLuisa Photography