“And if you have a good reputation, as a retailer or a restaurant, it’s that consistency at the end of the day that really pays off. You have to be good every day. —Arkadi Kuhlmann
much more inclined to comparison-shop aggressively for products, whether it be a TV or a savings account. How do you retain customers who
might find a better rate on the Internet—in your
case, as high as a percentage point?
AK: For us, it’s all about the brand. We
don’t say we’re going to be highest or lowest,
depending on a savings or mortgage account,
but we’re going to offer good value. Rate is only
part of the package.
I believe that people vote with their
money. What does the company stand for?
What are they all about? How does that basically reflect on me as a customer? For example, I believe people go to Costco for more
than just buying stuff that’s cheap. There’s an
experience there, an ongoing reputation, a
consistency that people have some faith in.
Faith is what they need. We spend a lot of time
with those 25,000 moments of truth every day,
reinforcing the faith that our customers have
in the way we operate.
You have to put 10 out of 10 things
together. It’s the way you serve your customers.
It’s the offer you make and the way you execute
it. And if you have a good reputation, as a
retailer or a restaurant, it’s that consistency at
the end of the day that really pays off. You have
to be good every day.
CC: Do you still work occasionally in your
call center? What are people saying these days?
AK: The average call is about 2. 5 minutes.
People usually spend about 30 seconds talking
about a balance or moving money: Can I open
this account or make this payment? Then they
spend the other minute and a half talking
about the economy and money and whether
they are budgeting right. You hear a lot of people having an opportunity to talk with somebody empathetic about the stress and trials
they have with money.
That’s a point where we as a retailer can
make a huge difference by listening, giving a
word of encouragement and a little support
that they’re on the right track by saving a bit of
money. We tell them to not overextend and to
keep doing what they’re doing. We all just need
a little encouragement now and then.
CC: I always am curious what CEOs like to
do in their time off. You? And what was that I
heard about reading palms?
AK: I enjoy painting, love to play tennis
and sail. I love to ride a bicycle and a motorcycle. I do read palms—it’s something I got
from my grandmother. It’s a great way to get
to know someone. It’s something you can use
as a good thing over dinner or over a drink
CC: In your book [The Orange Code, John
Wiley & Sons, 2009] you write, “It’s strange, but
the most dangerous challenges to our brand always
came in the disguise of new products.” Yet the business needs to grow. So what’s next for ING Direct?
AK: Sometimes size begins to gum up
what you’re doing. You start becoming too
inwardly focused, you get set in your ways and
it becomes a bit uninteresting. You get caught
with the dilemma of wanting to be a change
agent in the marketplace, but at the same time
you get caught with this sense of “Well, don’t
fix it if it ain’t broke.”
But the smart guys will continue to break
down things and rebuild them, because that’s
the only way you’re going to keep moving for-
ward and not get caught up with your own
story and your own PR and your own issues
from yesterday. Our customers always look up
and want to see what’s new. We have to create
that bit of freshness, newness.
If you’re a rebel and you’re going against
the grain, it’s easy to do when you start out. But
as you get bigger and bigger, it gets more difficult. You have to keep trying to break it down
and make the organization as flat as possible
and continue to be a bit irreverent. Because if
you’re not a bit irreverent, you’re not anywhere
near the edge. C
AT THE HEART of ING Direct’s operations is the Orange Code—a 12-point constitution
for the company. Some of the code might be pertinent to your company.
1 We are new here. Every day
is a new beginning, a new set of challenges, a chance to reinvent ourselves.
2 Our mission is to help people take
care of the wealth they make. Money
is the fruit of work, and saving it is fundamental to freedom.
3 We will be fair. Everyone will be
treated equally here.
4 We will constantly learn. Every
experience we have will make us wiser
and better at what we do.
5 We will change and adapt and
dwell only in the present and in the
future. We are nourished by thinking
about what can be done.
6 We will listen; we will invent;
we will simplify. Our customers can
make us better if we let them. But we
must first understand them.
7 We will never stop asking why or
why not. Nothing can be sacred here
except for our mission.
8 We will create wealth for ourselves,
too, but we will do this by creating
value. Profit is proof that we are fulfilling
9 We will tell the truth. We can’t succeed without the trust of our customers.
10 We will be for everyone. To be our
customer, people need only a dollar and
the will to be independent.
11 We aren’t conquerors—we are
pioneers. We are not here to destroy—
we are here to create. We have competitors, not enemies. We came here to offer
people a choice.
12 We will never be finished.
FEBRUARY 2010 ;e Costco Connection 25