September 24, 2008
A change in tone for my blog today. This story with links is more to do with Corporate Social Responsibility than Customer Experience. It just happens to be what's on my mind right now…
If it weren't for the financial melt down, I'm sure that the tainted milk scandal would be top of the news agenda in Japan today. This isn't the first time that the safety of Chinese products has come into question – and it won't be the last.
If customers don't trust your company, it's bound to be bad for business. The FEER blog points to a noodle shop in Hong Kong, which is seeking to reassure customers by printing expiry dates on the noodles themselves.
But how does one deal with a collapse of trust in an entire country? Whenever a new scare threatens Chinese exports, we hear about new legislation, increased inspections, and draconian punishments. But it seems that the underlying problems are endemic and can't be easily rooted out.
I recently asked a good friend who lived in China and worked with Chinese exporters for 15 years – What will it take to introduce a culture of responsibility to companies in China? (Responsible entrepreneurship, respect for health and safety of customers, ambition to build trusted brands etc.)
Her answer? A free press.
I think she's right. Regulations are important, but they're only part of the solution.
Lest we forget, Chinese firms are not the only ones to ignore safety issues in the pursuit of profit. We also see scandals at Japanese and Western firms – including some truly egregious offenses. But companies are more likely to consider the consequences of their actions if their customers are informed and empowered.
I've seen some TV footage from China that seems to indicate that Chinese consumers are receiving news about the powdered milk problems. So perhaps some good will come of this sad episode.