Photo: Owen Thomas, Business Insider
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who recently invested in payments startup Square and joined its board, recently asked Jack Dorsey, its CEO, why it called people who buy or sell things with Square “users.”Dorsey didn’t have a good answer.
So he’s asked his employees to start calling its customers, well, “customers”—or, specifically, “buyers” and “Sellers.” He’s also suggested the rest of the technology industry consider making the change, too.
If he slips up, Square employees who catch him can charge him $140. We assume that figure is a nod to Dorsey’s other company, Twitter, which limits messages to 140 characters.
One problem with Dorsey’s theory: A lot of Internet companies give away services for free and make money through advertising or other means. Their users aren’t their customers. One big example: Twitter, where Dorsey is still chairman. We’ve asked folks there what they think of Dorsey’s missive.
Here’s the email Dorsey sent Square employees:
I was reminded of something today which has always bothered me, which I have since taken for granted.
The entire technology industry uses the word “user” to describe its customers. While it might be convenient, “users” is a rather passive and abstract word. No one wants to be thought of as a “user” (or “consumer” for that matter). I certainly don’t. And I wouldn’t consider my mum a “user” either, she’s my mum. The word “user” abstracts the actual individual. This may seem like a small and insignificant detail that doesn’t matter, but the vernacular and words we use here at Square set a very strong and subtle tone for everything we do. So let’s now part ways with our industry and rethink this.
The word “customer” is a much more active and bolder word. It’s honest and direct. It immediately suggests a relationship we must deliver on. And our customers think of their customers in the same way.
We have two types of customers: sellers and buyers. So when we need to be more specific, we’ll use one of those two words.
The other thing that has surfaced in a number of my 1:1s is that we have become a bit abstract and distanced from our customers. Simply: we don’t talk about them enough. So, we’re going to do two things.
First, I’m going to work with the support team to surface top issues at every Town Square instead of just CS inquiries per transaction percentages. And on our information radiators. We must feel our customer’s issues every day.
Second, all of our work is in service of our customers. Period. Therefore, we better damn well mention them in every conversation, review, meeting, goal, etc. I expect all of you to make certain our customers are always the first and only focus of all our efforts. If there is an egregious absence of this focus anywhere in the company, tell me and we will correct. If I ever say the word “user” again, immediately charge me $140.
From this moment forward, let’s stop distancing ourselves from the people that choose our products over our competitors. We don’t have users, we have customers we earn. They deserve our utmost respect, focus, and service. Because that’s who we are.
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