22 Oct 2013
There is a marvelous moment in “Blackadder goes Forth” where Capt. Blackadder, getting rather irritated by the lack of humour that he finds in Charlie Chaplin movies dictates a telegram for ‘Bob’ to send to Mr. Chaplin.
It went “To Mr. Charlie Chaplin, Sennet Studios, Hollywood, California. Congrats stop. Have found only person in world less funny than you stop. Name Baldrick stop. Signed E. Blackadder stop. Oh, and put a P.S.: please, please, please stop”.
Well in the English language today there is a version of something that has gone beyond funny in a similar way.
It is the pervasive use of the word ‘Consumer’ in everything that involves somebody paying for something, anything it would seem and inevitably it finds itself, almost by magnetic means, drawn toward and in many cases slamming into the world of regulation.
Wikipedia defines a ‘Consumer’ as “the one who pays to consume the goods and services produced. As such, consumers play a vital role in the economic system of a nation.
It goes on to say “typically, when business people and economists talk of consumers, they are talking about the person as consumer, an aggregated commodity item with little individuality other than that expressed in the decision to buy or not to buy”.
But for small financial services businesses (as well as large one’s) what is meant by this sterilising terminology of ‘consumer’ is actually a customer, a client who you value and provide advisory services, in return for the services rendered you expect to receive a reward, monetary mostly, in return.
What is wrong with the word customer or client today?
It seems its loss of use is an act of political correctness, describing something, a concept in fact, that was previously very well understood as something else with a very different name but meaning the same thing.
Could it be that this type of grammatic engineering, a complete waste of time and effort on somebody’s part, is to justify their own existence in the workplace? Very apt across UK regulation today.
Are these the same people who have now recatagorised the casualty department at a hospital a ‘triage unit’ or emergency staff like police, fire and ambulance staff attending to an emergency now being called ‘first responders’?
Now if we move on a bit, Wikipedia defines a customer as somebody who : “purchases goods; a consumer uses them. An intermediated customer is not a consumer at all and customers who buy services rather than goods are rarely called consumers”.
Wikipedia, when referring to the ‘Consumer states “In the absence of effective consumer demand, producers would lack one of the key motivations to produce: to sell to consumers”.
Never has it been more important for the FCA to take note of this very simple observation in a post RDR world, because if the industry wounded keep getting ‘bayoneted’ by the regulator, there will no longer be any sustainable industry left to regulate.
Can we please stop inventing new names and processes for something we all understand and have interacted with very well over so many years.
In the best Blackadder tradition, my telegram to Canary Wharf would read:
“Have found only word in world less appropriate to describe financial advisers' customers. stop. Signed D. Bradley stop. Oh, and put a P.S.: please, please, please stop”.