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RESPECTING THE CUSTOMER


It is often said that the completion of a fancy new office building can be a corporation's downfall. Sitting at their desks and working comfortably in such an atmosphere, employees are lulled into thinking that their company is invincible and, by extension, that they can do as they please. Such a small deviation in thought grows, unknown & unseen, into a great problem that can threaten the very existence of the firm.


The male peacock has a long tail with elegant plumage that he unfurls in order to attract the attention of the females. Of course, the longer and more beautiful the tail, the more the females are beguiled. Yet because of that large outspread tail, the male cannot see behind himself and so he is easy prey for foxes.


Are you familiar with this experiment? If you drop a frog into a pan of hot water, it will be shocked by the heat and jump out right away. But if you place it in a pan of cold water and heat it gradually, the frog will become very comfortable and not recognize the danger. Even as the temperature rises, the frog will make no attempt to jump out, and will wind up a boiled frog. Although this is a rather cruel experiment that I do not advocate your trying, I think that it contains an important warning for us.


Every commercial enterprise starts out working hard to build a clientele and win its trust.

At this stage, the company spares no effort in actively working for growth. This task is difficult and time-consuming; therefore the managers of small companies look enviously at the big stores that have only to display a large amount of merchandise to attract many customers. But many large companies become cnt, assuming that customers will come to them rather than that the stores should serve the customers.


The Ito-Yokado Company is one example in Japan of an enterprise that started out small and became big. A tiny, one room clothing store at first, Ito-Yokado eventually became the most profitable retail business in Japan. In his book Akinai no Kokoro Kubari (Thoughts about Doing Business), the president, Masatoshi Ito, has devised a motto enumerating three things that should never be taken for granted: "The customer will come to you; wholesalers will see you merchandise; the banks will lend you money."


Ito-Yokado's employees are warned never to forget that there are plenty of other stores with products that are just as good or even better. Customers can get what they want elsewhere. So when a customer buys something at Ito-Yokado, the employees cannot help bowing their heads and saying sincerely, "Thank you very much." They also make every effort to keep stores clean and comfortable. The customer, in other words, must always come first.


Ito-Yokado shows the same deference to suppliers. Normally, as a company grows, it tends to become high-handed and haughty, expecting its suppliers to be grateful that it even deigns to do business with them. Suppliers may pander to the company, but they will not do so happily. If a better deal comes along, they will abandon the dictatorial company without qualms.


"Where are you going?" we ask a friend or acquaintance we meet on the street. "I'm off to my bank." he says. "I'm going to my grocer," she replies. "My" implies trust, and trust means belief. Such a person is, in effect, a believer. I cannot help feeling that this kind of trust and belief are essential components of a free economic society.


Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life




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