Why Social Contracts like the “Company Customer Pact” are slow to adopt

I’ve been a supporter of the Company Customer Pact, which is a set of guidelines put forth by Get Satisfaction and friends on how both individual customers as well as brands should behave in this ‘social contract’. Since it’s launch (I believe Feb 08) there’s only been 250 people that have signed and put their name on the wiki. Given the sheer number of bloggers out there, or companies, either awareness has been low, or there are some reasons why individuals don’t want to participate. For example, not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, as for one, Peter Dawson explains:

From Peter Dawson:

“The Customer Company pact, is a BAD IDEA, The problems is that Companies will not adopt it as part of a strategy. Individuals will, just like the Clue Train Manifesto. How many of the f500’s are really on the clue train and adopted these principles ? The same will hold true to the CC PACT. If a bunch of Bloggers ‘like’ an Idea ( aka CC pact) and endorse it (yes the more the merrier), it does not imply (a) that they will always follow it and (b) the company that they work for will adopt them as standards.

The most crucial aspect is in Corporate /Company Ethical and Governance Missions statements. These polices must be aligned to laws and statutes. Therefore a PACT between a Customer and a Company should and ALWAYS be put under the jurisdiction of the law. Yet how many bloggers (Customers) like being under the hammer ?? The Value prop is great in Theory , but near impossible to implement.”

Peter’s right, it’s not a legal document, nor should it ever be, but instead a ‘social contract’ that would encourage best-behaviors from customers and brands. What’s in it for individual bloggers? Sure every blogger has the right to rant and complain, but doing it in way that would be condusive for companies to respond to –and actually make a difference to change their product is helpful. Now, for a blogger that simply wants to vent their frustrations out on the web (without caring if they get resolution from the brand) then Peter is right, none of this will matter.

So in summary, the Customer Company pact is a best practice “Social Contract” or perhaps even a “Guideline” that would encourage communications to improve customer and company relations for better products and services. For those that don’t want to see products or services improved via online communications –this pact won’t serve your needs.

I for one, am for it, and have it taped up on my desk at work, I keep this in mind as I talk to both the brands, as well as bloggers, and how I choose to engage with companies when I want changes fixed for product and services.

Love to hear from you, do social contracts like the Customer Company Pact have a place in the world? Or should it be more of a laissez-faire approach and let them market sort it out?

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  • There are no clear benefits for brands adopting the CC pact. What’s in it for me? Why do I need it? How can it improve my business? But more important, CC pact and social contracts are aiming at modifying the company governance. Which can’t be changed that easily.
    Proven successful businesses running a social governance may change the deal, and I don’t bet on any social contract to do that. I much more bet on new generation of business owners. Post like the one of Marshall from ReadWrite Web are way more influent (http://tinyurl.com/5b6nds) because including facts and results.
    IMHO

  • Thanks Romain, all good points.

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  • The Pact is not the important aspect, but there is a trend of many companies becoming more open and transparent in the way they engage with their customers. This can be done via blogs, forums or customer communities. This trend will only increase, as companies start to realise the benefits of being transparent with their customers, who will show appreciation.

    The Pact is a nice idea, but the attitude of brands is more important.

  • I think the contract is a source of inspiration (as you mentioned, having it taped above your desk) regardless of how many have adopted it.

    It’s a great example for what corporate transparency could/should look like, and a valuable aid for companies who are in the process of defining or redefining their values.

    I’d like to see more companies adopting their own version of the pact into their own websites if they don’t want to sign.

  • Jutien van der Steen LLM – communication consultant

    The idea of the Consumer Company Pact has a symphatetic charisma. It gives a creative, intelligent push to think about the subject. But the WIKI context causes trouble: how can one sign up a pact that is meant to change uncontrolled after signing ? You can only agree upon the text at the moment of signing.

    Therefore I propose to have a WIKI-developing period of a year, with people/companies signing in as supporters of the project. Followed by a fixation of the text and a signing period to that specific text. If wanted, the WIKI-process can go on and result in a new fixed text etc.

    Another point is, that it’s not clear who are the people / powers behind the pact. Is that really the handful youth showed on the pictures at the introducing page ?. Why than are they doing this ?

    I’m a little suspicious, because through Communication-Nation rolls a gulf of co-creation topics, as being THE new marketing thing. Of course, there has to be attention for the topic of consumer-influence, but is a single customer / consumer really able, to influence a company ?.

    Did for instance any single consumer had any influence in the developing, introduction and selling of the so popular iPod and iPhone ? No, the introduction process was surrounded with secrets.

    Are consumers at the time influencing their banks by pressing them to hand out information, transparancy ? By withdrawing their money ? By asking mean or normal questions ? nope.

    So I doubt whether there is any urge for big companies, to sign a pact like this.