About Don Peppers
A marketing futurist and accomplished trend spotter, Peppers has educated and motivated audiences worldwide with presentations and workshops focused on how businesses can compete in a dynamic, technologically fast-moving world. His latest book Customer Experience: What, How and Why Now (2016), provides insights and “how to” recommendations for building and maintaining a truly customer-centric business.
Peppers has written nine books with business partner Martha Rogers, collectively selling well over a million copies in 18 languages. Most recently Extreme Trust: Turning Proactive Honesty and Flawless Execution into Long-Term Profits (Penguin, 2016) uses real-world examples to show how rising customer expectations in a more transparent age have permanently altered the competitive landscape. And Managing Customer Experience and Relationships (Wiley, 2017) is the third edition of their graduate-level textbook, originally published in 2003.
Peppers’ and Rogers’ first book, The One To One Future (Doubleday, 1993), put forward a paradigm-shifting idea about the business implications of interactivity that soon evolved into the global CRM movement. BusinessWeek said their book was the “bible of the new marketing,” while Tom Peters chose it as “book of the year” and Inc. Magazine’s editor-in-chief called it “one of the two or three most important business books ever written.”
Now, Don and Martha have once again joined forces to form CX Speakers, designed to deliver keynote presentations, workshops, and thought-leadership consulting focused exclusively on the customer experience and its related topics, which range from digital technologies, disruption, and innovation to customer metrics, social selling, customer success, customer advocacy, trust, and corporate culture.
Prior to founding Peppers & Rogers Group and then CX Speakers, Don served as the CEO of Chiat/Day’s direct marketing unit and was a celebrated ad agency “rainmaker” – exploits he celebrates in his entertaining book Life’s a Pitch: Then You Buy (Doubleday, 1995).
Graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a B.S. in astronautical engineering (seriously!), Don claims he was the only actual rocket scientist in the advertising industry. He also has a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. An avid runner and father of five, he is happily married.
Lesson 1: Life is not a contest, no one takes “first place” 03m 20s.
Lesson 2: Forgiveness is relaxing 04m 22s.
Lesson 3: Learn to live with yourself first 08m 12s.
Lesson 4: A job delivers a pay check, a career delivers a purpose 15m 00s.
Lesson 5: Bank favours, generously 24m 05s.
Lesson 6: You learn the most when you know the least. Be curious.25m 54s.
Lesson 7: Think Large: ask: “Will the world be better off if I do this?” 29m 17s.
Lesson 8: Temper your Temptations: Resist urges to cheat or game the system 34m 00s.
Lesson 9: Do the Existential Math! 37m 43s.
Lesson 10: Keep a few $10 bills on you at all times 41m 24s.
Don Peppers: [00:00:00] I had no idea why I would be going into business; you know I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid and I never, I didn’t apply to any other university except the air force academy. I had no backup plan if they hadn’t accepted. Right. I’m serious.
Duff Watkins: [00:00:15] You put eggs in the astronaut basket?
Don Peppers: [00:00:18] That was it, pal. That was it, you know you know, There you go.
Duff Watkins: [00:00:26] Hello. Welcome to the podcast. 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn. Where we talk with sages and gurus leaders and luminaries experts from all over the world to find out what they’ve learned in life that can help you in yours. My name is Duff Watkins and I’m your host.
Our guest today is Don peppers. Don is one of those genuine thought leaders. I’m not making that up. Don has been ranked in the top 50 business brains by the London times. He’s on the top 50 business intellectuals. He’s ranked among the 50 most influential thinkers in marketing and business. He’s in the hall of fame for the data and marketing association.
He’s authored 10 business books and three graduate school textbooks on customer centric, competition. Best of all he’s with us here today. Hi, Don. Welcome to the.
Don Peppers: [00:01:15] Hey Duff, glad to see you again. Glad to be here.
Duff Watkins: [00:01:17] I have to ask you this. Now you went to the United States air force academy. You graduated with a degree in astronautical engineering.
You got your master’s from Princeton and public affairs. How the hell did you end up in the marketing hall of fame?
Don Peppers: [00:01:30] Well, I finally found something I really liked to do. That’s really the story. I, I, I joke, but I’ve never, ever held a job for which I actually was educated.
Duff Watkins: [00:01:41] Yeah. Well, taxpayers may have something to say about that, but there’s still nonetheless, you know, marketing’s gain, I guess.
Don Peppers: [00:01:47] It was a great education.
I really wanted to be an astronaut, but my eyes went bad in my senior year. And so, I couldn’t go to flight training, and I was I was an air intelligence officer after Princeton. Princeton was on a, on a fellowship. And you know, I did really well in the air force, but then I think I burned my bridges behind me when I left, you asked me what I most regret in life is. That’s one of the things I, I don’t think I treated them very kindly when I left.
Duff Watkins: [00:02:18] Well, that’s a lesson though, where you start out in life and where you end up can be vastly different. And the journey is a lot of fun too. Okay. Well, let me ask you, speaking of business, what you recall your very first business lesson?
Don Peppers: [00:02:32] I think my, my biggest and most central business lesson I’ve ever really learned is to bank favors, generously. I call it putting favors in the favor bank. I would much rather have someone be in my debt than me be in their debt. And it, it doesn’t bother me at all to be generous with my time to do things for no immediate payoff. I don’t get the calculator out to determine whether this is worth it for me or not. I look at it as a, almost, almost, it’s almost a moral quest for me to, to Give more than I get in a sense in, in perfect awareness that I’m going to get a lot. This is great. I’m going to be fine. Thank you.
Duff Watkins: [00:03:11] We’ll speak more about that because that’s on the list of lessons but speaking of the list of lessons, let us begin.
Lesson number one. Life is not a contest. No one takes first place.
Don Peppers: [00:03:22] place. Right? I grew up thinking that I could take. I graduated first in my high school, I was, I was first in my class at the air force academy.
I was always first. I always wanted to be the top dog, but the lesson I’ve learned is that it’s not a contest life. Isn’t a contest. Life is a blessing, and no one really knows why we have conscious thought and emotions and so forth. Gosh, what a terrific thing it is. So that’s my, that’s my first lesson. Life isn’t a contest.
Duff Watkins: [00:03:52] That reminded me. There was a psychologist whom I admire, he put it this way. He said, it’s not, it’s not like he who dies with the tightest ass wins, you know. And that made me think of a lot of businesspeople.
Don Peppers: [00:04:04] He who dies with the most stuff doesn’t win.
Duff Watkins: [00:04:07] Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it does take a bit of time sometimes to learn that lesson.
So, life is not a contest. No one takes first place. All right.
lesson, number two. Forgiveness is relaxing.
Don Peppers: [00:04:18] Yes. I learned this lesson when I was in my forties, and I got a book called Why Forgive? I have the book here. I can put my fingers on it right now. We still have a couple of copies. My wife and I both read the book and we thought it was such a terrific book about the benefits of forgiveness on the forgiver not the forgiven on the forgiver. And we actually donated, we bought 10 copies and donated them to the church when we left town. So here you give it to everybody, but basically when you really let go with some wound or. Damage or something you think somebody did wrong or some, some harm.
It tends to put your mind at rest. You feel good about it? Now if you can feel good about it, you should feel good about it. It basically is it’s a tonic for the soul. For the soul of the forgiver and I’m not, I’m not religious, but I, I do believe, I do believe that being able to step back from a situation and actually forgive a party, who’s wounded you in some way and, and, and put it behind you is a really great way to put Sav on the wound.
Duff Watkins: [00:05:25] that reminds me in my work in executive development, I use a lot of psychometric assessment.
There was a scale that I used, and it actually is a measure of. People who keep score when they should be cooperating. And if you’ve worked with those kinds of people, you know what it’s like, you know, everything is tabulated, and real and imaginary slights and insults go into the spreadsheet. And sometimes accrue with interest and sometimes it compounds, oh man, that’s hard.
That’s hard to work with those people, but, but you’re key point, I take it is you forgive because it’s good for us the forgiver.
Don Peppers: [00:06:04] Yeah, it’s good for good for the forgiver. It really is good for the forgiver and that makes it a lot easier to undertake actually.
Duff Watkins: [00:06:10] And one of your points about this was about being kind and wait a minute, you seem to be going over the top here Don. You’re saying be kind to even people I dislike. I mean, come on.
Don Peppers: [00:06:19] Yeah. And there’s nothing better than being kind to an enemy. It gives you a really good feeling. I hate to tell it this way, but it almost makes you feel superior. You know the truth is maybe you are superior Matt. Now I have a great deal of difficulty carrying this off when I get harmed or wounded.
I’m my first instinct is to. Yeah, Nash out. I grit my teeth and I, I hate them, but if you can step back and get away from that feeling, it’s much more emotionally mature and satisfying over the long term for you.
Duff Watkins: [00:06:51] Well, and you’re pointing out a psychological truism because one there is a benefit to you.
Two it does take exertion on your part. In fact, you reminded me of something that Dalai Lama said. He said, you know, you need all those dickheads and those difficult people in your life. And you say, why, why do I need more dickheads in my life? He said, because so you can practice your compassion because you’re not very good at it.
You need all the practice you can get, and they give us an opportunity to practice. And besides we were discussing off air that it’s an age old saying, be kind for everyone is carrying a heavy load. Often misattributed to Plato, actually written by clergyman John Watson. But the point is you have no idea what the other person is going through.
You just have no idea.
Don Peppers: [00:07:35] And I think that it is good practice when you forgive and be kind to your enemies. It’s really good practice for trying to see things through their eyes and always ask yourself. I were to do that to someone, what would I be thinking? What would be going through my head?
And if, if that would be going through my head, I must really be unhappy. And this, this is a miserable life to live like that you know, or he must be just mistaken.
Duff Watkins: [00:08:01]
Lesson number three, learn to live with yourself.
Don Peppers: [00:08:05] First. Yes. I learned that lesson in my first marriage. I went to the academy. I went to Princeton and toward the end of Princeton, I realized that I was going to have to go out and live by myself.
Now I didn’t have mom to protect me or dad. I didn’t have a roommate. I wouldn’t have a roommate. And I had a girlfriend. Right. Loved. I went over to visit her. She was an exchange student in Vienna for a little while and I, and I wanted to marry her to have her come with me and to, you know, I had to go off air force now.
So, but I was going to be alone. I was going to be living by myself for the first time ever. And I was petrified of it. So, what did I do? She said. She had her own career. She said, we can do it later, but not yet. She’s not ready yet. And eventually she became a TV personality in Miami on the news and she’s had a real successful life.
But I was so petrified. I think of being by myself, that I, I met a girl who was really very vulnerable and not, and I towered over her intellectually and, and I just felt like, but I asked her to marry me and she. And, we had two kids and then I got divorced like 10 years later. And I’m with the psychiatrist.
And I’m talking about this issue after, you know, a counselor after our divorce. And she said, you know, you married her because you were petrified of being alone. You have to, you have to figure out how to live by yourself and be comfortable in your own skin with yourself first. And that was a big lesson for me.
It took me a while and, and it was, it was not. Not easy.
Duff Watkins: [00:09:34] Yeah. It isn’t that resonates in my previous career as a psychotherapist, to me, it all starts with self-acceptance and that sure sounds easy and kind of glib, but as you just illustrated, it isn’t necessarily. And because you’re facing yourself, you’re telling yourself the truth.
You’re realizing you are clamoring over your defenses. To face you. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, you find out, well, it’s not, so it’s not such a big deal after all, you know what you discover is that you’re just as human as everybody else. And for some reason that comes through as a shock or a revelation to us, but
Don Peppers: [00:10:09] yeah, because you thought you were immortal, like you, you thought you were a Superman, and you find out you’re not more than that.
For me, it had to do with just being comfortable that I was just like everybody else. I had my own faults and my own difficulties and my own problems. I had to face up to that. So, and, and I have to get comfortable with it.
Duff Watkins: [00:10:29] How has that contributed to your career in business? In other words, how did you take that and implement it into your business life, your work?
Don Peppers: [00:10:37] I’m not sure I ever really did per se. I have sometimes thought back on a decision I might’ve made whether to, for instance, go out on my own as I’ve done several times. And I think that was partly because I, I had learned to live with myself, and I could do things. I could do things alone if I wanted to and I could live or not on my decisions on my own actions.
Maybe that’s been helpful. I actually, I think it has been helpful.
Duff Watkins: [00:11:05] Well, I guess the other part of that is learn to live with yourself first and then once you, once you master that …
Don Peppers: [00:11:11] Then you can find someone who really loves you. Yes. Right. Which I did, thankfully, I married a lovely woman, a woman named Pamela I’m still married to, and she was a TV producer at the ad agency.
I eventually worked for she’s smart and funny and, and beautiful. And we have a lot. Every day, we thank our lucky stars that we met each other. I’m her lucky dog. I’m the lucky dog who met her.
Duff Watkins: [00:11:37] No, I mean, it’s funny cause you don’t have to be perfectly intact in order to be presentable, marketable commodity in the world of relationships you know.
Don Peppers: [00:11:48] Well that’s very commercially put, Duff.
Duff Watkins: [00:11:52] You know, I mean, people spend a lot of time on self-improvement, nothing wrong with that. Yeah. You know, when they make it a religion and I’ve been guilty of that. You know, you just need to have a bit of insight and self-acceptance as to who you are and with warts and all, and then you’d be surprised how other people can accept you however, imperfectly you may be.
Don Peppers: [00:12:11] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, you know it’s, it’s not on the list of lessons, but I did learn to believe in love at first sight because I got divorced from my first wife and I was living in New York city. And I’d moved in with another guy who was also divorced. And we had been old friends in at one of our former jobs.
And I went off to work in an ad agency and I’m representing an airline. I was the north American advertising executive in charge of the British airways account when Saatchi won the account. Saatchi bought Compton advertising to order in order to have a global network. And I was the north American guy and my secretary called and said, a producer wanted to see the new British Airways commercial site.
I said, well, I’ll show it to myself. And she said, well, it’s a girl, it’s a woman. Pamela Deviney so, okay. Well, you know, give me the office, I’ll just go down and show her the commercial. I went home that evening. I was gob smacked. I took one look at her, and I thought, oh my God.
And I went home, and I talked to Steve. I said, I remember this perfectly well that evening. I said Steve, you’ll never guess this. I think I met the woman I’m going to marry next; I think I met her. He said really, really how’d you? I don’t, I just happened in the agency. I don’t, I don’t even know if she’s available, you know, but beautiful and wonderful and lovely.
Steve said, oh, I’m so happy for you. What, what’s her name?
Ummmm Pam I think
it was literally like that. And I never looked back. I never looked back. And then eventually she didn’t, it took me almost a year to get it. So, there you go.
Duff Watkins: [00:13:45] Well, I’ve heard stories like that before, and I’ve had a few of them, myself. My wife made me ask her to marry her four times because I didn’t get it right the first three times.
And again, I need to keep practicing, got to get the tone, right?
Don Peppers: [00:13:56] Hey, I had to ask Pam three times. Yeah. the third time for us.
Duff Watkins: [00:14:00] Yeah. Well, I got it right eventually,
Don Peppers: [00:14:02] Good that’s great.
Duff Watkins: [00:14:04] Yeah. So, what I mean, so I guess there’s a lesson in there. You know, it doesn’t always come easy. I mean, I mean the easy, easy bits getting smitten as you were, and that’s, that’s a fantastically wonderful feeling and then comes the, the.
The effort, the discipline, the exertion of asking three or four times and making sure that you get it right. Okay.
Lesson number four, a job delivers a paycheck. A career delivers a purpose.
Don Peppers: [00:14:34] I’m in a career right now. I went from the air force. I went to an oil company. I was an economist for an oil company.
I kind of liked it. It was sort of entrepreneurial. I really like that part of it. They made me the director of accounting. I’d never had an accounting course, but I was in charge of the accounting and assistant treasurer and the subsidiary. And then I went to an airline, and I became the director of pricing in the airline, which was sort of like a sort of like accounting.
It was very anal because it was regulated pricing was still regulated in the late seventies. And I was attracted to the marketing side and I, and I found marketing and our marketing found me. And I’ve been in love with marketing ever since. Cause I’m, I’m, I’m a marketer. I was, that was really what I was born to do to be a marketer.
Now I feel like I’m on a career, Martha Rogers and I came up with this book. The idea for the book took us three years to hatch. We published the book in 1993. The one-to-one future all about how companies are going to have to compete when you can interact with individual customers, one customer at a time, and you have a database.
And so, this was way before the internet or not before the internet was before the worldwide web was established and we sort of visualized this world of marketing. And now, you know, like all over the world written, you know, 10, 10 or 11 more books depending on how you count them. And, and we’ve got a million copies in 18 languages.
These, these are all my foreign language books, and these are the books we wrote in, in the United us editions. When I think of my mission today. My mission is to make the world safer for customers. That’s my mission. I’m constantly trying to see how can businesses treat customers better and profit in the experience of doing that.
Does that make sense?
Duff Watkins: [00:16:21] Well, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you speak a couple of times in Sydney, and I’ve read two of your books. I think one-to-one marketing is the first one I’ve read. And so, you really are a world expert on customer experience. And you’ve got some great stories to tell. And the ones that I always remember, or when a company tweets, cavalierly, or callously a customer, not knowing how much influence the customer has upon their business. The one I always remember Don is some guy in a bank somewhere up in new England and they were just treating him a little abruptly and turns out he was like; I don’t know the head of some big international firm. And so, he closed their account with that bank or something like that.
Don Peppers: [00:17:02] Right, right, right. Yeah, that, that and there are all sorts of stories like that.
And I have one right now I tell about a dentist in Sydney who did the same thing yet. He had like 12 or 13 dental practices around Sydney. Had millions of dollars in the bank for these practices. He happened to overdraw his personal account once and they bounced his check, and he was so embarrassed that he transferred to a different bank.
That’s a classic kind of story where a company gets so big. And so bureaucratic that one arm doesn’t talk to the other one they don’t know who the customer is through the whole, all the services, a consultant once said that he was, he had been a customer for this big bank. I don’t remember the name of the bank that he worked with.
Like Citibank or chase or one of the big us banks. And he said he had a checking and savings account there and that’s how he started. Then he took a credit card and the credit card people treated him. Like they didn’t, he didn’t have anything with the bank. They didn’t know him. And, and then he, then he took a home mortgage and they treated him just like, they didn’t know him.
The more I buy from them the worst they treat me.
Duff Watkins: [00:18:07] Well, that’s true. It’s true. I mean, I’ve had that experience as well. And, and what with the advent of social media, though, one of the things you pointed out in your anecdote and stories is that the customer is not powerless, they’re not impotent. They’re not, they’re not necessarily idle.
Don Peppers: [00:18:22] No. And Mr. Untrustworthy business, your customers are coming for you soon.
Duff Watkins: [00:18:27] It’s amazing. Anytime I have a complaint and as I do from time to time with banks or utilities, as soon as I go online to Twitter and start bitching and moan and complain, it’s amazing how fast they get back to me. And the thing is, you know, you just wonder, why do I have to do that?
Why do I have to be a squeaky wheel and start complaining? Which is not really my preferred nature in order to get a commercial response. When I am the customer,
Don Peppers: [00:18:54] well, the business ought to be proactively looking out for those kinds of complaints and issues. And I get it. It’s business is complicated.
It’s not easy. You, you need systems and devices and so forth. It’s better. If your whole business is based on, how can we treat customers the way we’d like to be treated if we were the customer, but most businesses don’t. They think about how can we give customers these benefits at the least cost. And in the short term, it may be is the least cost, but in the long term, is it probably not, you know, in the long term you’re, you’re giving away customer equity.
You’re giving away customer Goodwill. That’s never profitable in the long-term.
Duff Watkins: [00:19:30] And just to go back to one of the, one of the central points, the career that you have. Found you or you found it and it wasn’t right out of the box, wasn’t right after graduation. It was, you had the life experience in there.
And it sounds like you did a lot of jobs sampling, which is a sort of a current phrase for it. You know, you experiencing this and you probably, I always say to people, you will experience what you dislike, what you don’t like, what you don’t want. A lot before you sort of tumbled onto something that you do really enjoy.
Don Peppers: [00:20:01] Yeah. It’s like experimenting with life. You experience, you get as many experiences as you can to try to sort of see what you like. I had no idea why I would be going into business; you know I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid and I never, I didn’t apply to any other university except the air force academy.
I had no backup plan if they haven’t accepted none. Right. I’m serious.
Duff Watkins: [00:20:26] You put all your eggs in the astronaut basket.
Don Peppers: [00:20:29] That was it. Pal. That was it, you know there you go.
Duff Watkins: [00:20:33] Yeah, well, that’s like me putting all my eggs in the pro basketball basket. When I know that’s going to be a lot of empty shells in that basket, I can tell ya. Geez. And so, I guess the point I want listeners to know younger people is that there is a lot of sampling. There’s a lot of trial and error.
There’s a lot of experiencing, and, and I like the way you put it, you said, you know, marketing found you, you found marketing. It’s kind of hard to tell sometimes, but you know, it, you know, it just kind of clicked.
Don Peppers: [00:21:00] Well, what’s interesting about marketing. I remember having a conversation with somebody about the difference between marketing and let’s say accounting, and I’ve held both jobs, both kinds of jobs.
The thing about accounting is you can’t really be a good accountant if you don’t know the rules and the, and if you’re not familiar with the latest tax regulations and, and. Tremendous amount of discipline in the knowledge base that goes into accounting. I was on an elevator with some colleagues when I, one of my advertising jobs at Lintas. Lintas worldwide used to be a part of Interpublic now.
And somebody said, well, that guy, he didn’t take any marketing courses. I said, well, you know, it’s talking about somebody I said, well, neither did I, but the truth is you either get marketing or you don’t in my view if you don’t get marketing, you can take four years with the courses and you’re still not going to get it.
But if you do get it in about two weeks, you know, everything you really need to know, really to make reasonable decisions in marketing. Marketing is a process of trying to find the mutually value, creating positions behind the buyer and the seller, the two parties. How to make it mutually beneficial. And it’s a business of making, making the right deal or thinking about the incentives the right way, you know, and realizing that everybody wants something.
Okay. And if you know what this person wants, then maybe there’s value to be had by providing it for them, you know? I dunno to me, it just seems so simple. Say that again, the mutually, just two parties each have their own interests. And how can you strike a deal or arrangement of some kind, some sort of interaction or exchange which creates value for both of them, how it satisfies with them.
And that’s all, that’s all marketing is. It’s looking for. Areas of common interest, the common interest is not there. I could be interested in something very different than you’re interested in, but marketing is the process of finding where the exchange of value place and under what terms and how it would be beneficial to both.
So, both parties want to do it. The company wants to sell it and the customer wants to buy it, you know, in marketing it’s that simple, but it applies everywhere. It applies. It applies in politics too. It applies everywhere.
Duff Watkins: [00:23:13] Yeah, the exchange of value. That’s the phrase I’m locking on. Okay, well, let’s return to the emotional finance
lesson number five bank favors, generously and regularly.
I think you’re saying, tell me more, tell me more about that.
Don Peppers: [00:23:27] Today. I’m often asked for favors and I, and I don’t, I can’t return them all. Can’t do everything. This podcast is. You know I think people could benefit and you’re definitely going to benefit. And so, I’m happy to do it because it, because you’re an old friend and a good colleague and you know, what, what goes around comes around sooner or later, and then maybe so I think putting favors in the favor bank is just my expression for always trying to make sure that the balance sheet of your life and your business is in, is in your favor, that there, there are more.
Obligations out there to you, then you have obligations to others, and you’ll never collect on all of them, but you’ll need to just a few it’s their investments. So, favors in the favorite bank are like stock options. Okay. You don’t know if they’ll ever pay off, but maybe they do. And sometimes they do in a, in a
Duff Watkins: [00:24:18] way.
I don’t know, but it just seems better and more natural. It feels better for me to be generous with time and requests and things like that. And I know you are a generous guy. And Sydney on your speaking occasions and right now on this podcast. And so that’s very much appreciated and it’s, it does seem to benefit us as individuals and others who will hear this podcast.
Don Peppers: [00:24:38]
I think so. I hope so. And the whole idea is I didn’t step back and say, geez, this is an hour of time. What should we charge for this? What should we do that? You know, it could be so anal about your, I’m a time and materials business. Right. I charge for my time, and you know, but you have to give stuff away also.
Yeah. And you know, we’ll, we’ll do something later, you know, who knows what’ll happen or maybe somebody will listen to the podcast and call me up and say, Hey, Don, I want to give you a million dollars.
Duff Watkins: [00:25:05] All right.
Lesson number six, you learn the most when you know the least. So be curious.
Don Peppers: [00:25:12] Yeah, I’ve developed that.
I read a lot of nonfiction books. I read books on the human brain. I read books on behavioral economics. I read books about the I’m working on a book right now about the adaptive economy by an economist named Lo L O, I’d never read anything of his before. And I read a couple of books on racism recently, cast.
Was a really, really good book about the cast systems that have existed in the world. And the blacks in the United States are lower cast people in the same way that lower caste people in India have been lower cast in the same way. The Jews were lower caste and Nazi Germany. It’s a really interesting book.
There’s another book called me and white supremacy. And, and thing is all these books answer questions for me. I think of it as satisfying my curiosity. And in fact, I often I’ve heard the expression that curiosity. Is the highest moral attribute of a human being, being curious about how the world works, how other people feel, how other things happen, how you know is a moral obligation, almost learning from the question you least know the answer to is a principle from a book I read about information, entropy, entropy and information is randomness.
Say to you. What’s the next letter. If I give you these letters, B U C K E. What’s the next letter?
Duff Watkins: [00:26:36] T would be the most obvious reply.
Don Peppers: [00:26:39] But if I give you the letters, B C K, Z, what’s the next one. Nobody knows. Nobody knows that’s you’re not supposed to know. It says entropy is randomness in the universe and, and, but entropy is good and information.
The less, you have to put things in context the faster, the information transfers an entropic question. Is a question that you can’t predict the answer to already. Okay. And that was the lesson in this book. And I, and, and so I’ve always, I really took that to heart. And, and, and when you’re interviewing someone to try to find out what the, whether they think this product is the right thing or not, or whether this is the right way to solve this problem which marketers do all the time.
This is. Asking the question that you least know the answer to is the way to learn about the customer’s real feelings, the fastest. Does that make sense? That’s what I meant. And I, I think it’s a, it’s a good enough lesson. It serves people well in life and in business.
Duff Watkins: [00:27:41] But it does start with being curious and lack of curiosity is kind of an intellectual dormancy or deadness, or it can be spiritual emotional deadness.
Don Peppers: [00:27:52] Can be. It can be, I believe that constantly learning and I’m a sucker for interesting facts. I call them factoids interesting facts and I, and I collect them. And it’s great for storytelling, which is my primary occupation. Public speaker. Right. But I always find the satisfaction of curiosity to be one of the best satisfactions there is.
Duff Watkins: [00:28:15] Finding out stuff. Just simply learning stuff. You don’t know. It can be very stimulating. Okay.
Lesson number seven, think large, ask yourself, will the world be better off if I do this?
Don Peppers: [00:28:26] Yeah. What I mean by that is I think you need to ask yourself at all points in your career, whether if what you’re doing is something that the world would actually value.
The world is actually getting better because of this. I think that the world is getting better gradually for customers. And I think that I’ve hastened it along. And that’s given me a great deal of emotional satisfaction. You can almost look at it in terms of I am propelling the accelerated expectations of customers.
Customers expect more from companies today than they did 10 years ago or 20 years ago or 30 years ago. And every day when a new competitor does something even better for customers than other competitors have to imitate it, or they will underperform to customer expectations. And if you look at the surveys of customer satisfaction over the years, the American customer satisfaction ACSI index, it’s a, it’s a big score.
That’s been in business for like 20, 25, maybe 30 years now. I don’t know. But from the very beginning, the general level of customer satisfaction in, in America is hovering between, you know, 60 and 63. It’s never changed. This customer service has gotten better and better and better. We have way better customer service today.
Then we had when the ACSI first went into business. So why isn’t satisfaction you go on? Because it’s relative to expectations. The fact that customers’ expectations are going up means. That service is getting better and better and better and better. And I think that’s making the world a nicer place.
Duff Watkins: [00:30:01] Let me ask you this. I might’ve asked you this five years ago on a different podcast. Do our customer expectations becoming unrealistic?
Don Peppers: [00:30:10] Well you know, never say never. But I don’t think in general, they’re becoming unrealistic. I think in general, when you look at customers’ expectations that are not being satisfied, what you’re looking at is a business opportunity, either for you to do it or for your competitor to do it.
And so, an unrealized expectation is an opportunity to realize it it’s a business opportunity. If you could figure it out. That exchange of value in some way. That’s why it’s a marketing task. What’s the exchange of value? I, so I could satisfy this customer. This customer wants me to, they don’t want to have to apply for a refund.
Well, is there a way you could find out if they’re due a refund before they apply? Of course, you could do that. So why don’t you proactively give them the refund or tell them it’s available and just touch here? You know, all these expectations that customers have. Now, once you start doing that, as Amazon does, as jet blue does, as many other companies are doing everyone is going to have to do it pretty soon.
It’s like when you go into the grocery store today and the cashier gives you change for your cash, you count the change to make sure you aren’t being cheated. No, of course not. Nobody does that cause nobody gets cheated anymore. People used to have to count their change. Cause cheating was on was, you know, it used to be that if you weren’t my relative or if I didn’t know, you personally, I’d really try to swindle you.
So, it’s the world has become the moral arc points upward. Okay. Slow, but sure. And that’s what gives me great solace. In my older age, I really feel like the world is getting better and I helped play a role in it. I felt, I feel so. I feel very happy about that,
Duff Watkins: [00:31:49] Well on behalf of customers all over the world, we thank you for that because we need it.
But you’re right You know, I mean, I’ve heard that moral arch trending upwards blah, blah, blah, Martin Luther king Obama, yada, yada, yada. But then I look. And then I have my doubts until I read Steven Pinker’s book, the better angels of our nature. And you come across that one? It is absolutely riveting and
Don Peppers: [00:32:11] Only a thousand pages?
Duff Watkins: [00:32:13] He documents it so, so, so well, so convincingly that.
Don Peppers: [00:32:18] Pinker is a terrific writer. I’ve read almost all his books, I think. Well, I think I might’ve read all of his books, but I don’t know how he has time to write these books. And he’s a really kind of classic thinker.
Duff Watkins: [00:32:30] He is. I mean, he’s got, he’s got a demanding job.
He’s a full-time professor at Harvard, but he cranks out. He seems to crank out these books and they’re all, everyone is just a thought provoking, similar work. So, but as I say, yeah, he pretty much convinced, convinced and persuades anyone who cares to read the book that the world is getting better, and he’s got the proof.
Don Peppers: [00:32:48] And I, and I agree with them a hundred percent, you know, I, I know I could have written that book myself, I guess, you know.
Duff Watkins: [00:32:57] It’s not too late. Do the marketing version.
Don Peppers: [00:32:59] Yeah. Right, right.
Duff Watkins: [00:33:00] Alright, speaking of cheating,
lesson number eight, temper your temptations resist the urge to cheat or to game the system.
You seem to be implying that we’re going to get opportunities to cheat or game the system.
Don Peppers: [00:33:11] Yes. I think life is full of those opportunities and I have done it once or twice, and I can’t think of a time that I’ve done it, that I haven’t ended up regretting having done it either because I got caught once or twice.
But more than that, even if I didn’t get caught, I felt like I had betrayed myself. Well, the thing is the more trusting the world is, the more trusting people are, the more opportunities it presents for cheating cause to cheat somebody. You have to con them into thinking that you’re honest. Right. And if everybody’s honest and I believe everyone’s honest, and I’m going to be easy to cheat.
easy to steal from easy to, you know, can I, and I think game playing with, with the rules, taking advantage of the rules, even if you’re not legally cheating if you just conniving, I don’t know. I think it just leaves me with a sour feeling. I can’t really describe it. I’ll give you a really good example.
I’ll give you a good example. Just happened recently. I have a friend who made a lot of money and had a big short-term gain that he wanted to take. And I have a very large. Short-term loss carry forward on my tax return. And I thought, was there a way that I could use my cash tax loss carry forward to help him pay for his gain?
And there’s, there is a way, you know, and, and I talked to the accountant and, and basically, I give him a gift of this, and he gives me a gift of that, but it’s not really a gift, is it, you know? But. You know, only legally it might be a gift, but, but then I asked, you know, what would I say to my own son if he asked, why did you do this?
And how would I explain that? And so, I declined. So, in the end we didn’t do anything. We did didn’t do a deal because it could be done legally. Well, can you get an accountant to bless it, but it didn’t feel right. And I wouldn’t be able to tell the truth to the auditor. If the tax auditing came, came around, I’d have to say, oh, this is just a gift.
I just decided to give this person something, you know, and it wasn’t. And I guess, so that’s an example of how a lot of people have no, no problem playing that game. If they can make a buck here, a buck there, but I think playing the game like that, you can get rich by robbing a bank too.
Duff Watkins: [00:35:23] Well, what you’re describing is the emotional, psychological cost of conniving and which I have experienced myself as well.
I’ll give you a personal example. Years ago, 20 years ago, I was caught riding the train in Sydney with an expired pass by the rail cop, you know, and they don’t arrest you or do anything they just said, would you mind, you know, paying this, you know, cause it’s, it’s expired and you’re riding the rail.
And 20 years later, I still feel ashamed about that. I went home and I said, I had a talk with myself. I said, What the hell are you doing? You got the money. You’ve got the money. I mean, what kind of character that is not happened again? Don, let me tell you, but it’s like, yeah, man, the way people undermine themselves, the way we undermine ourselves and that’s what it is.
Don Peppers: [00:36:07] And the thing is, Duff, 20 years ago, I would have done that deal in a flash because I was still cutting deals like that. I was still conniving. I was still thinking about, but by the time I became reasonably successful, it dawned on me. That it’s unproductive and counterproductive, really idea.
Duff Watkins: [00:36:24] Well all you gain is the money, you know, that’s all and you lose, and you lose elsewhere. Because there was a cost to it.
Don Peppers: [00:36:30] You lose your self-respect.
Duff Watkins: [00:36:31] Oh, that was what I experienced. So, temper your temptations, those opportunities, to cheat or game, the system are coming your way, friends. So, watch out for them. All right.
Lesson number nine, do the existential math. Count your blessings see acknowledged well on those good things.
Don Peppers: [00:36:45] Yeah. Yeah.
My wife and I, before we go to bed each night, we do an exercise, we name one or two or three things that really went well today. And we count that we dwell on it. We think about it. Oh, it was really great. Talking to our daughter in London today was really, that was a lot of fun or so-and-so got a new job and she was really excited, you know, or, you know, just things like that.
We just think about all the good stuff. And what we found is that it cheers us up in our lives. We are thinking about things that are it’s basic positivity 1 0 1 is what it is, you know, positive thinking 101. And when I, when I think about it, I am one of the most fortunate human beings alive.
You know, I really, No one that I can’t think of anybody who was born more fortunate than I was my parents weren’t millionaires, but they were well off for, in a small town. My dad was an engineer, really smart. My mom doted on me. I was blessed with an IQ; good IQ and I was lucky in a lot of ways.
And, and I don’t want to forget I wasn’t born black. I wasn’t born female. I didn’t have any undeserved disadvantages at all. And I’ve been so lucky. I have been so fortunate. So, for me to think of my accomplishments in life, as my accomplishments, it’s not really. I was very lucky to have the ability to do what I’ve done.
And I need to constantly keep that in mind. I was dealt a really good hand and I am so lucky to have been dealt that hand. I was just wanting to give back once in a while. That’s really a really what I’m saying.
Duff Watkins: [00:38:23] Do you remember when you realized how lucky you were?
Don Peppers: [00:38:26] Well, I’ve always no, when I was growing up, I thought it was all me.
I’m Superman. I can do everything, you know and, and really until, until I got married again to Pam and we start having kids and it really was. But I will tell you this also, I had a period. In the beginning of the pandemic, when everybody’s by themselves, we’re all locked in. You know, and I’m in my office.
All the time. And I got, I got a little depressed about it. So, I, I went online and took a course on Coursera, on positive thinking. And that’s where Pam, I got our three blessings idea. And that started me thinking very seriously. How fortunate I am. And then with the black lives matter movement and the me too movement, I was always nominally non-racist and a non-misogynist.
And yet I wasn’t actively anti-racist or anti bigamist, and you know, cause I wasn’t affected by it didn’t affect my life. Right. And, and that’s made me more and more aware of just how fortunate. How much good fortune has played in my life and not just my own Sterling and personal ability.
Duff Watkins: [00:39:34] The realization that when it comes to you, that all the good fortune that you enjoy is not strictly due to you.
That’s the mark, an emotional milestone for some people. It’s an important one. So yeah. So, count your blessings. List them, write them, update them.
Don Peppers: [00:39:55] Dwell on them a little bit. That’s all just dwell on it a little bit.
Duff Watkins: [00:39:58] And remain cognizant of the unfair unselected advantages that you just happen to inherit?
Don Peppers: [00:40:07] Yes. And be charitable to others.
Duff Watkins: [00:40:07] Yeah. All right. Lesson number 10. I think I know where you’re going with this done.
Keep a few $10 bills on you at all times.
I know where you’re going because you’re right. Cause you might see some cool stuff you want to buy, and you want to have the money to buy it. Right? That’s what you mean.
Don Peppers: [00:40:24] No, I keep some cash on me. I’ve got a little stack of $10 bills in the car so that I can sometimes give a $10 out to an unfortunate person, you know, in the United States, maybe this doesn’t happen much in Brazil, but in the United. When you’re driving on the highway and on the, on the road, we drive through San Francisco.
We stop at a stoplight every once in a while, there’ll be a homeless person there collecting, collecting, you know, I always want to have a $10 bill available cause it gives me such great pleasure, personally. It just makes me feel good to be able to brighten somebody’s life even a little bit. And so that’s why I said that’s one of my 10 life lessons.
Keep a supply of bills on you that you can give away. It’s not gonna, it’s not going to put any less food on my table. It’s not going to give us any sleepless nights to give $10 to somebody it’ll give me pleasure. It makes me feel good. It’s the happiness that I personally get from giving something to someone else.
And some people say, oh, well, you know that they’re just cheating. You know, I don’t know that. And, and you know what, if they are so what?
Duff Watkins: [00:41:29] Yeah, yeah. The guy that opened my eyes to this was the Dalai Lama. When he was, he said something like when you see a homeless person or somebody on the street and they’re sitting there begging for alms, he said, give them money.
You know, it means nothing to you. It means something to them.
Don Peppers: [00:41:49] It means a lot more to them than it means to you.
Duff Watkins: [00:41:51] And I had to think for a second, I said, wait a minute, wait a minute. He says, give them money. Don’t think about it. Just, you know, give them loose change. And I got to say, Don, I’m embarrassed to say, but I mean, I’d never really thought about it that way.
Let me ask you one final question. We’ve been talking about the things that you’ve learned in life. What about something you’ve unlearned lately by that? I mean, something you absolutely positively knew to be true then, but now realize is not the case.
Don Peppers: [00:42:18] I’m I think I’m in the process of unlearning what I’ve believed for most of my professional career was that the free market was always better and more efficient than government or regulatory spending. I still believe that when you have a free competitive market, you, there are forces involved that sort of make things much more efficient and satisfy more people. But I don’t think there are very many free competitive markets. Okay. Even the United States, the market’s not free.
It’s not competitive. It’s monopolized by a few big tech companies in the tech space. It is monopolized by a few very large banks. The businesses are very crowded and what government regulations are there have largely been implemented at the behest of the regulated and the, and so I’m, I’m coming around to the belief that more social I. E government action is probably called for in our economic system then I used to think. I’m not a socialist and I still believe in the benefits of investment and capitalism and, and competition among businesses. But I no longer believe that the free-market system is actually as free as I used to think it was. Some regulations should be. And for me, this is a very big change of heart.
Duff Watkins: [00:43:38] Yeah, it would be, yeah, it would be.
Don Peppers: [00:43:40] Cause I’m a Milton Friedman economic student. And the thing is if we were truly a competitive free market system, and I still believe that’s probably more efficient than almost anything else. Any other system. And more and better for everybody in general, but we’re not, we’re highly concentrated in certain sectors.
We’re a highly favored by regulations and other sectors. Anyway. So, you asked, that’s what I believe.
Duff Watkins: [00:44:06] The Korean British economist, Ha-Joon Chang, put me straight on that. And if you want to read some economics, there is a guy for you. I’ve been trying desperately to get him on the podcast.
He teaches at Cambridge, but between him and Alexander Hamilton of all people, and I’ve been a fan of Hamilton, well, before the musical, let me just point that out. And, and how he put the U S economy on the map and, and, and industrialized it, and was heavily protectionist and was very clear-eyed about the role of government and the role of markets. So, but, but the point is the fact that you’re willing able to change your perspective and to learn something new rather than be simply wedded to a, a past conception. And I always tell people the next free market you see will be at the first free market you will see because they don’t exist. You know, you’ll be lucky if you can get a fair market anyway, that aside. So, is there anything else you’d like to leave our listeners and viewers with Don? No.
Don Peppers: [00:45:14] Have fun in life and, and you know, you, I think you can have more fun and feel better about yourself by being better to others, that’s all.
Duff Watkins: [00:45:22] And we’ll finish on that note. You’ve been listening to the podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn our guest today has been Don Peppers. One of the world’s foremost experts on customers, centric, business, customer experience. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary and as always is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum.
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