For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
A true story…
In the late 1990’s our company produced a software product to meet a specific vertical market. We poured everything into it, expending tremendous amounts of money and effort to bring it to market. It was good stuff. It demonstrated beautifully to high acclaim by sales prospects.
Once the product was in the field it started behaving inconsistently. Systems crashed without warning and problems could not be duplicated. For about a year we increased the size of our bug fix and support teams. People pulled all-nighters. It was miserable.
Finally, during a site visit to a customer struggling with this mess I called the president of our company and said, “This product is dead. We need to pull the plug.” He agreed. It was installed in almost two dozen customers. We are we to do? What happened next is “exhibit A” in how to conduct business on a relational, not transactional basis.
Our accounting department immediately assembled a list of every penny sent to us for all product, consulting, support, or other money related to this failed product. Next, we called every customer and told them our decision (many were disappointed) and that a check was on the way for every cent paid to our company for this product and its supporting services. Further, the test computer they might have purchased from us was theirs to keep. For one big customer, we sent consultants on site free of charge to help convert data to the format our competitor could import to ease the pain of transition.
These customers universally expressed gratitude and thanks for how this was handled. They knew we cared. They knew we had sacrificed. They knew they had been loved. Our company recovered and today is dominant in its market, bigger than ever. At no time did I ever have to apologize or rationalize how our company handled this difficult situation. I’m proud that my rear view mirror on my career is filled with such stories. I sleep well.
But it costs something to do business this way. Loving our customers sacrificed our bottom line that year. I personally sacrificed my bonus. Loving others isn’t always cheap and easy. The model we have for how to relate to others is the death of Christ.
In life we are called to follow our Savior’s example, and so it must be in business.
Kirk Fischer, Associate Dean, McLane College of Business, UMHB