Is Your Company On The Naughty List?

What would Santa say to all those companies on the Naughty List? The ones that leave customers more frustrated than festive.


It may be the holiday season, but there are plenty of businesses whose customers aren’t feeling very festive.  Instead, they’re frustrated (sometimes even infuriated) with the poor customer experience provided by the companies they patronize.

What would Santa say to all those organizations that are naughty to their customers?  The ones that subject people to countless annoyances — from hidden fees to unintelligible correspondence, from overly complex products to poorly organized websites, from unhelpful staff to outrageously long call queues.

What would Santa say to all these customer experience indignities that are so common in today’s world?

With a nod to Clement C. Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” here’s how Santa’s reaction might play out:


‘Twas the night before earnings release, at the office.
Everybody was stirring…  especially Horace.
As Chief Accountant, with numbers he’d trained
But looking at these figures, his spirits waned.


Sales were down; expenses were climbing,
And it wasn’t just due to the seasonal timing.
Something awful was happening behind the scenes.
That was clear, even to the guy who counted beans.


So he summoned his staff about what to do next:
“We need answers to share with the corporate execs!”
They dug into the numbers, and analyzed trends,
And began to see things through a shiny new lens.


The executives gathered, though it was Christmas Eve.
“What’s the purpose of this?” asked the CEO, aggrieved.
“Well,” Horace replied, his voice cracking with fear.
“I’ve got something, sir, that I think you should hear.”


“There’s a lot to explain, but I’ll try to make it snappy.
I’ve reviewed our financials and they won’t make you happy.
Those great retention numbers we saw in the fall?
Well, turns out our customers weren’t loyal after all.”


“They were waiting around for a better provider.
As soon as one came, they switched their supplier.
There’s a new firm that’s doing something astounding,
And some of their tactics are truly confounding.”


“Like what?” scoffed the CEO.  “We can’t be upstaged.
We’ve bought Super Bowl time.  Made a Facebook page.
How can some other firm possibly strike us
When we’ve got six ‘Friends’ who say that they ‘Like’ us?”


Horace took a deep breath and met the chief’s gaze.
“Their customers seem to have nothing but praise.
When a client calls, for example, humans answer the phone.
They don’t have to listen to some automated drone.”


The Service VP raised his chin, in a snit.
“For the record,” he said, “I don’t buy this one bit.
Our voice response system is very helpful.”
Horace grinned.  “Maybe, if you get past the eighth menu level.”


The Marketing VP then entered the fray.
“I know what’ll keep this competitor at bay.
We’ll expand our products! Add bells and whistles, too!
I guarantee this little upstart won’t know what to do.”


“That isn’t the answer,” Horace said, perplexed.
“This upstart knows customers dread what’s complex.
Their product suite’s lean in a deliberate attempt
To avoid the confusion that breeds discontent.”


“But we’ve got the best salespeople,” their VP declared.
I promise you, in this fight, no expense will be spared!”
Horace sighed.  “But our people are paid on commission.
And consumers these days view that with suspicion.”


“There’s more,” Horace said, to the ol’ CEO,
“There’s another big problem compounding our woe.
Employees are frustrated; turnover’s on the rise.
Folks just aren’t happy, is what I surmise.”


The CEO shrugged in silent disbelief.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “What’s the staff’s beef?”
Horace measured his words, tried to hide his smirk.
Everyone knew this wasn’t a good place to work.


“Well, sir, it’s complicated and it’s not just one thing.
But it’s all lowered morale, which now hangs by a string.
We tell them we want quality, yet measure them on quickness.
That conflict creates stress, so they call out with sickness.


We implore them to exceed our customers’ expectations,
Yet give them poor systems requiring manual machinations.
And on top of it all, they’ve got supervisors who don’t listen.
Focused less on their people, on more on their own mission.


Just as the CEO rose to make his case,
There was a noise from the boardroom fireplace.
The execs stood in awe as a black boot appeared.
And heard from above the clatter of reindeer.


It was Santa himself who stepped forth for a turn.
“When,” he cried, “will you bozos ever learn?
I’ve worked with you for years, but I’m sorry to say.
The way you treat customers…  is driving me away!


Your quality’s suffered, and the fees are too numerous.
To think you’ll get loyalty is really quite humorous.
The elves give me an earful, day in and day out.
Say we can do better with our North Pole clout.


So I’m putting you on notice: get this shop in order,
Otherwise I’ll move the work south of the border.
And if you don’t think all of these problems phase us,
Just watch me forge a larger agreement with Bezos.”


As he stepped into the fireplace, Santa gave them a wink.
“You simply must pull yourselves back from the brink.
Think you know your business? I’ll throw you a curve.
No matter what you’re selling, your business is to serve.”


[A version of this article also appeared on]

Jon Picoult is founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm that helps companies impress customers and inspire employees, creating raving fans that drive business growth.  Author of “FROM IMPRESSED TO OBSESSED: 12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees into Lifelong Fans,” Picoult is an acclaimed public speaker, as well as an advisor to some of world’s foremost brands.  Follow Jon on Twitter or Instagram, or subscribe to his monthly eNewsletter.


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