Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Never lose a client to politics or religion. (unless you want to)...

Yesterday I posted this statement on Twitter: Politics and Religion are the two worst reasons to lose a client. I inadvertently touched off some controversy. (funny how a post that was designed to discourage controversy could do so!) People feel passionately about these things, so I guess I’m not all that surprised. Rather than try to have the discussion in 20 words or less, I’m posting some thoughts here with the knowledge that many may want to weigh in with their own.

First off. Let’s review the statement. Considerate a postulate. (the kernal for a debate). The statement was: Politics and Religion are the two worst reasons to lose a client. Let’s take that apart a little...

I did not say that politics and religion are the dumbest ways to lose a client. There are, without a doubt, many dumber ways. Bad customer service, failing to listen and react to what your clients are telling you (and not telling you). Bad business practices, etc. These are all dumb. However, most smart people avoid these methods for losing customers. It is when our passions engage that we sometimes do things we don’t mean. Like giving people with different passions the impression that we don’t want to serve them because they don’t look or act or think (or worship) like us.

There are people for whom this is not true. There are people who actually think they are right and frankly they may be. These people seem to want to convince the world of their rightness, either so they can convince the world to go their way or just because it feels good to be right. I’m neither that smart nor that solid in my personal convictions. I guess I’ve decided that it’s more important for me to just be the best me that I can be and let others do that too. It is not for me to wag my finger and say they’re wrong. There are lots of folks who seem perfectly ready to step into that role.

Understand also that this does not apply to legalities. When preference crosses a line of legality it is for any contributing member of a society to step up and say, hey, that’s wrong. But when that line is the grayer line of religion or the extremely murky and highly polarized world of politics, I simply prefer to leave the argument to others.

So for me, Politics and Religion are the worst reasons to lose a customer. I don’t feel that I am superior to someone who chooses to believe different things. Therefore I don’t feel that someone who chooses to believe different things is inferior. Why then would I want to put something out there that causes someone to be uncomfortable with doing business with me because their convictions and mine may not line up? Isn’t it better to serve them as a client, treating them with respect and dignity, then to attack something about which they may feel passion? In attacking the thing it is far too easy for the person themselves to feel attacked and it is then that it is likely that any chance for a client relationship is severed.

It is true that politics and religion are about principles. There are those who seem to stand very firmly on their own. I actually do too. It’s just that one of my principles is a deep respect for the sanctity of each person’s experience and the knowledge that finding one’s way is hard enough. I would much rather help those who need it by setting an example through who I am then try to do so through words and phrases born in byte sized chunks over the ether.

So that’s what I was trying to say... I know there are those who feel much differently. I respect that too. If you want to lose clients because of your passions about politics and religion (“if they don’t think the way I think I don’t want to serve them”) more power to you. In that case, then for you politics and religion definitely wouldn’t be the worst reasons to lose a client...


Ron Dawson said...

Jim! Just when I think I'm out (i.e. on a social media break) THEY DRAG ME BACK IN. :)

Great topic. Because of my social media hiatus, I did not see the aforementioned debate on Twitter. I'll be sure to look for it.) But, fwiw, I'll add my 2 cents.

I guess it all comes down to HOW a person shares their morals and belief systems within the context of their business. Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and B&H are excellent examples of very successful companies which are very public about their respective belief systems. So much so that each is closed on their respective religious "sabbath" days (you can't even order online from B&H on the Jewish sabbath). All that to say it IS possible to have your belief system public and do exceedingly well.

Now, if you laud your belief system over your prospect like a Pharisee or something. Or if you use your business as a pulpit to "evangelize" and "win souls," I could see that not being a very effective way to do either - i.e. clients or souls. :)

But, if you just happen to mention (either on your about page or in blog posts) that you are of a particular faith/political viewpoint, but are graceful and tolerant when dealing with prospects, I see no reason why you can't be as successful as the aforementioned businesses. In other words, you don't have to lose clients over it.

I have a number of non-profit clients who CEOs have political, religious and/or lifestyle choices that I know are diametrically opposed to my personal faith. And they know what my faith is. Yet, they've been great clients for years and I also consider them friends. It can be done.

In the end, I'm a prov. 3:5-6 kind of guy. :) I have no qualms acknowledging my faith. But I believe if you actually relate to people the way the central figure of my faith related to people, regardless of their view points, you'll do wonderfully.

Jim Collins said...

Hey Ron. You're on Hiatus. I agree with what you're saying. Note that my comments above don't say, "don't say anything about your faith or politics." They say, don't lose clients due to your faith or politics. At least, not if you don't intend to. I'm not advocating covering anything up. I'm saying don't be unintentionally abrasive.

We both know well the fact that our clients are likely to find us just about anywhere. So having a twitter account that we think clients won't find (or a Facebook page) or whatever, is folly. Think about the impact on your clients of what you're feeling a need to say. If you decide you want to say it anyway, more power too you. But don't say something and then find yourself surprised that your clients are leaving because they don't agree...


Aliy said...

Hey Jim,

Great post. I agree, but I agree more with your caveat "unless you want to"

There is work I won't do for political and religious reasons. But In my case I'm not out to prove a rightness. I know that my personal convictions would get in the way and affect my work. I don't want anyone's memories to suffer because of how i feel or what I believe, so I have turned down work in the past for those reasons. I would wager politics and religion are two very good reasons to turn a client away. (to me "lose a client" implies they are disgruntled and I would hope my approach leaves them appreciating that I know my own limitations and care more that they are satisfied than my bottom line)

Jim Collins said...


Right! So in that case you aren't losing a client, you're choosing not to serve them. That's a big difference and one wholly espouse. That's the "we reserve the right to refuse service..." perspective and I think having those boundaries is key to successful businesses.

My post was more for people who just post random stuff and then wonder why people email them and want to back out of contracts, etc., because of something that was said. (actually the direct scenario that prompted the original post).

Great comment!