We all know from personal experience how this plays out on the customer front lines. You call Microsoft, Intuit, HP or whatever’s customer support and get someone speaking a barely intelligible version of your language (if you’re lucky). This person is obviously measured on call count, because he keeps pushing to end the call, problem resolved or not. I even had an HP call marked “successfully closed” or some such despite the “tech” unable to even identify my admittedly exotic monitor, never mind know how to rotate the screen 90 degrees back to normal.
But “behind the lines,” including at management levels, I see stress from excess workload, micromanagement enabled by micro-measurement and fear of losing a job keep internal concerns, including self-preservation, ascendant over customer concerns. Work is becoming more and more about pleasing the boss, which is often antithetical to pleasing customers. Our “pressure-cooker” corporate environments are not conducive to putting customers first.
Rephrasing the question, how far will customer-centric attitude and desire to help customers take an organization?
In my mind, not very far. Yes, process is my practice focal point, but I don’t believe I’m being biased. After every customer relationship audit, I come up with change recommendations that can be categorized as: “behavioral;” “process-based;” “process plus technology” based. The latter two categories almost always dominate the list.
Over the holidays, several times I caught myself experiencing a knee-jerk negative reaction to less than customer-centric behavior by companies supposedly being among the customer-centric elite. For example, Southwest Airlines is vigorously opposing a proposed new FAA regulation mandating more rest for pilots between flights. Not very customer-friendly behavior, considering the significant percentage of fatal air crashes resulting from pilot fatigue.
But in this case and others, I found myself fighting against allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Southwest IS a very customer-centric company, overall. So is Verizon Wireless, especially against the backdrop of a customer-unfriendly industry. So is McDonalds, even while pushing back against proposed new food labeling laws. And won’t applying “purity tests” penalize such companies for making all the progress they’ve made?
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to forgive a Best Buy for preaching customer-centricity while they’re completely falling off the wagon. But shouldn’t we (myself included) cut the relatively good actors some slack?