It's a wonderful life (but maybe not so much for your customers)

How do you act when it comes to your customers? If you were in the movie It's A Wonderful Life, would you be George Bailey or Mr. Potter? You remember George Bailey and Mr. Potter, right? (If you haven't seen It's A Wonderful Life, stop what you're doing right now and go watch it. No, really. Go now.)

As a refresher, George Bailey ran the Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan - helping people that Mr. Potter's bank turned down to do things like save money and get a home loan. Mr. Potter ran the bank in Bedford Falls and was the richest man in town - often profiting as a slumlord to those who the bank turned down for home loans.

You say, "That's easy. I'm the George Bailey type!"

Not so fast.

Just how wonderful is life for your customers?

In the movie, it was pretty easy to identify Mr. Potter as the villain. In real life, it's never quite so black and white. Organizations that would claim they are doing the right things may not realize that their customers and prospects aren't that quick to give them credit. Here are a couple examples:

  1. You throw some money to a local charity or group and then claim you are a supporter of the community. Supporting these things is good. But are you just doing what is expected rather than really making the effort to have a profound positive impact on lives (the definition of a Big Audacious Meaning)? This would mean going beyond simply sharing your excess to sharing your knowledge generously. Helping customers make better choices. Even changing policies to put the customer's needs ahead of the organization's.

  2. You talk about helping people, but it's really not much more than helping them buy whatever you're selling. Banks do this quite a bit. When there was a run on the Building and Loan (which happened quite a few times during the Depression), Mr. Potter wanted everyone to believe he was helping them by offering $.50 on the dollar for their shares in the Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan. As George helped everyone see, Mr. Potter wasn't helping them. He was taking advantage of them in a time of panic. George helped everyone see how the system worked. He helped them understand that their deposits helped fund home loans for their fellow building and loan customers. He gave them transparency and education. Are you doing the same with your organization? Are you helping people find what's good and right for them? Or are you nudging them toward what is best for the organization?

The difference between Mr. Potter and George Bailey came down to the issue of customer centricity. Mr. Potter defined the bank by how it performed and not much more, while George defined the Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan by how it served the customers.

The bank was a necessary evil. The Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan was a beloved institution. So much so that when George and the Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan were in trouble, it was the customers who came to the rescue.

What would your customers do if you faced the same fate as George Bailey? If you're unsure, maybe it's time to start thinking about how you could make their lives a little more wonderful.