Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Customers, Service Providers, or People?

Five O'Clock Shadow 74

Originally uploaded by evo_terra

The client/service provider relationship is a time-honored tradition. From this we have added many terms to our cultural lexicon, the greatest likely being "the customer is always right".

I wonder.

No, strike that. I think it's wrong.

As a customer, I don't want any special treatment. If I yell and scream at you, I expect you to fix whatever is broken.

But if I yell and scream at you and it turns out I'm wrong, I expect you to yell and scream back. I mean... come on. That's how we'd do it in the real world, right?

What is it with this artificial "Customer" mantle we've created? Why do we think it makes other people immune to responding back to us as real people? I don't want to do it this way anymore. Lords know it gets worse in an anonymous intrawebs environment, but it happens in the real world, too.

So that's it. I'm officially turning in my Customer hat. I'm just a person. I'm also turning in my Service Provider hat1. I'm just a person. I sometimes shout. I sometimes curse. I sometimes overreact. So do you. So do we all. Let the chips fall where they may.

And I really don't care if money is involved or not. I'm still dealing with someone, and I hope they don't respond like a robot to anything I do or say just to improve the odds that I might continue spending money with them. I'd rather spend my time cultivating relationships with people who expect to be treated like people than some illusionary Customer which means jack-shit at the end of the day.

1 - And for the record, I spent way too many years in the service industry. I think I still am in the service industry. But I'm pretty sure that everyone in this industry and everyone who this industry services are still people.


  1. One service job I worked the managers told us as we did training, the customer always deserves to be treated fair and with respect. Sometimes the customers are wrong. People do overreact, but losing your cool when it's not life or death is silly and generally not worth the waste of energy, but that's just me.

  2. The thing is, it's not an equal relationship. It's a relationship involving power. The customer has the money, and the service provider wants that money, so the customer has power. Yelling and screaming at people with power is counterproductive. Also, unless it's a very small business, the people directly responsible for customer interaction aren't the people empowered to decide it's worth it to break a customer relationship. (I.e., they're not going to gain or lose the money themselves.) So their managers directly enforce a policy of politeness, to reduce the risk to the company as a whole.

    Besides. If your goal really is to piss someone off, keeping your cool when they're losing theirs is actually very effective.


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