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The Customer Experience Conundrum, Part Four

Fourth in a short series of blog posts on this topic

This is the fourth in a short series of posts about the customer’s perspective. I believe that companies that do not put themselves in their client’s shoes, are failures.

This has been a recurring experience for me lately. Companies, like people, speak volumes about their values through their actions. When they act like they don’t care what their customers are experiencing, it means that they actually don’t care about their customers. Which to me is weird, because without happy customers, the business probably cannot continue to exist and make money, and therefore cannot pay its employees. I think that being nice to customers and keeping them happy should be as important as profits.

Institutions are like companies; they have clients and they need to understand the experiences the clients are having, and understand their clients' feedback. This includes citizens of governments, parents and students of a school system, students of a university or college, (and possibly even prisoners of a correctional facility?!) And just like companies, when they don't listen to their clients, they then degrade themselves to being entities that are providing a basic service without any thought to the value it is, or is not, providing to the users.

Case example: As a parent of children in the public school system, I observe some things in the curriculum that are out of date and/or inappropriate. I can ask questions to the teacher or principal, but ultimately, if I want the "system" to understand how my experience is going from my perspective (and thereby affect change), I have to write letters to trustees and politicians, and engage in the long, slow process of their bureaucracy. If I want to urge things along, I turn it into a complaint, and follow up numerous times. If I want to escalate the issue, I engage journalists, social media, or more senior politicians. Basically, I can threaten to get the issue to go public and become a blemish for the institution in order to get their attention, their reaction, and to notice my perspective.

The institution is set up to run like a big machine, and does not include processes to gauge or receive feedback from the players impacted by it or running through it. Those players are expected to be silent, and the only feedback mechanisms for most big social institutions is complaints (which is only one kind of feedback about the customer experience).

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