Workplace Wisdom

15 Mar 2016

You Can’t Always Get What You Want from IT

Whichever software platforms and development methods an organization relies on, the features and functionality that users want aren’t always available. As the Rolling Stones song goes, “if you try sometimes, well, you might find / You get what you need” — except that the operative word, when it comes to IT, is might. Mind the Satisfaction Gap A disparity between expectations and actual deliverables can occur if the IT provider, whether external or internal, applies only a cookie-cutter understanding to […]

23 Feb 2016

Navigating Complex Customer-Supplier Relationships

Have you experienced the stress of a complex, high-ticket customer-supplier relationship going awry? The problem often occurs when there’s a mismatch between the customer’s expectations and what the supplier has available and actually delivers — particularly if it’s an internal supplier. How Do Things Go So Wrong on Both Sides? Many sales reps can only promote their offerings in very general, benefit-laden terms. They may not be aware of what their typical customer’s experience is, or how challenging project implementation […]

26 Jan 2016

When Design and Customer Experience Conflict

“Tell me why you chose this place,” I said to the colleague I met at a hotel during an otherwise successful trip to Baltimore. “I always like the Kimpton properties,” she answered. “Why, did you find something wrong?” There was a twinkle in her eye as she spoke. She knew I was about to critique various aspects of the hotel experience. But when I enumerated the customer experience challenges, she agreed. Displeasures Disclosed “There’s no deadbolt on the door, and […]

15 Dec 2015

Nice Service If You Can Get It

On Thanksgiving morning, at the Hampton Inn in South Kingstown, RI, my teenage daughter dropped an earring into the sink drain. I consulted with the extremely pleasant young woman at the front desk about it, feeling grateful for the staff members who had given up or postponed their holidays to help us keep and enjoy ours. A Good Intention “Do you have maintenance on staff today?” I asked, and explained the situation. “Maintenance isn’t here today,” she said, “but we […]

01 Dec 2015

The Value of Complaining

If the correct thing to do isn’t obvious or easy enough, we usually do whatever seems best at that moment, even if it violates norms. When norms are violated multiple times, though, they generate a data set that should prompt change. The repeated violations show that either the norm is no longer relevant or the tools and structures meant to implement it aren’t working correctly. There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame Here’s a funny example. Recently, while having dinner at […]

20 Oct 2015

3 Reasons to Fire a Customer

When a business has to fight for every sale, the idea of intentionally turning customers away seems like sacrilege. In fact, taking advantage of customers is such a common societal trope that there’s a plethora of consumer advocates, ranging from the Better Business Bureau, to the New York Times’ column “The Haggler,” to numerous websites and hashtags based on the concept “YourCompanySucks.” But as crucial as it is to treat customers fairly and appropriately, it’s equally important not to let […]

22 Sep 2015

How Service Apologies Backfire

If an apology is observably insincere, what’s the point? Politicians, celebrities, and athletes are often taken to task for pro forma or grudging apologies that don’t express true remorse, take responsibility, show recognition of the hurt or damage caused, or commit to doing better in the future. And when the recipient notices that the “apology” contains “weasel words” — language that’s intentionally ambiguous or misleading — the “apology” backfires — creating its own offense, or adding insult to injury. Exhibit […]

11 Aug 2015

Who Defines Your Service Rules?

According to an old Swahili proverb: “When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” That’s certainly true in organizations where executives have ongoing disagreements. Whether the situation involves explicit, pitched battles, or covert, passive-aggressive resistance, it’s the folks lower down in the hierarchy who are most affected by the lack of alignment — they end up feeling either whipsawed or trapped. But there’s a double whammy when this kind of clash happens in the area of customer care. Frontline […]

23 Jun 2015

Good Service Stays a Step Ahead

On Sunday morning, Daughter and I went to a local diner where the food is always good, but the service is often iffy. Our waitress had been somewhat unhelpful in the past, so I studied her this time around to learn why. Here’s what I found, based on her interactions with us and the tables nearby. Longtime customers greet her warmly, and she seems to mean well. She knows the menu. But she has a nervous, scattered demeanor, doesn’t focus […]

12 May 2015

Don’t Paper Over the Reality of Customer Experience

You’ve probably seen that embarrassing Seinfield episode (weren’t they all?) when Elaine is in a public restroom and realizes that there’s no toilet paper in her stall. If this has ever happened to you, it probably only took a couple of times before you made it standard practice to check for paper when you first open the stall door. (Let’s call that customer awareness, or customer education.) Early in my career, I managed an operation that worked weekends. The building […]


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