Saturday, 18 November 2017
For instance, it’s a fallacy to believe that a company selling you products or services will always have your interests at heart. And nor should they. More than two centuries ago Adam Smith wrote that, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
Companies sell us things, whether it’s meat, beer or bread or a bank account, an insurance policy or a cellphone because they want to make a profit by doing so and there’s nothing wrong with that. The “profit motive” is a healthy thing, so long as it’s done in an open and honest manner. Hopefully we profit as well from the deal. We get our dinner, a loan, cover against disasters and a phone we can use to update our Facebook profile to tell the world what we think of the weather.
Just don’t think that a company is primarily interested in you. That would be a mistaken belief, one based on unsound arguments. A fallacy.
It’s also a fallacy, one of the biggest in customer service, to think that “the customer is always right”. Let me tell you a secret. The customer is NOT always right. In fact, the customer sometimes is a jerk. Other times the customer is an idiot and occasionally even a lying, cheating scumbag doing his best to steal your company’s products, services or money.
Of course you shouldn’t assume this to begin with. When you first meet a customer they obviously deserve courtesy, respect and attention. You start the encounter by assuming that both you as a service provider and the customer should benefit from the encounter and that the best way to do this is to engage with them like a professional and find a solution that their needs. It’s only later that you can change this approach.
Some years ago we heard from a restaurant manager who had a customer arrive, order food, eat most of it and then complain that the food wasn’t good enough. Being a polite and flexible guy, he said he wouldn’t charge her for the food. The following week she came again and exactly the same thing happened. Again, he waived the bill. The following week it happened again. This time he politely explained to the customer that perhaps she’d be happier eating the food offered by another restaurant where they could satisfy her needs and she left. When she arrived the following week, he refused to serve her and explained that she was no longer welcome in his restaurant.
When he contacted us he asked if we thought he’d done the right thing and our response was very simple. Yes, of course he was right. She had effectively stolen his food and he was perfectly right to “fire” her. We suggested that his other customers, the one who didn’t abuse him, would probably agree with him as well.
I could offer you a long list of stories we’ve heard of customers who are even worse than this. We’ve heard of customers who lie, cheat and even one, very recently, who asked a supplier to forge a document to help them defraud a manufacturer of the product they falsely claimed was faulty. Obviously these are extreme cases and it’s important to understand that most customers are decent people, not crooks but I do think it confirms the truth. They’re not always right.
What about the common suggest that “the customer is king”. Sorry, that’s another fallacy.
We’re not all kings. Or indeed queens. We’re just ordinary people, not royalty, not people with inherited wealth, position or power, not people that everyone has to stand up to greet, not people who deserve red carpets and impressive titles. We’re just people, people who deserve respect until we demonstrate that we no longer deserve it. Most importantly, I object to the suggestion that only royalty deserve good service. Everyone does, whether we’re of royal blood or the mortals required to serve them. Isn’t it the 21st century and haven’t we long put aristocracy behind us?
Then there’s the fallacy that service has to be the same everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in a bank, a filling station or a government office, we all deserve respect and courtesy but I believe that different levels of service aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s natural for service to vary. The quality of service I get at the filling station doesn’t need to match the service I get in a luxury hotel. It might seem uncomfortable but the more I’m paying for something, the better the service I expect. That’s certainly the case in restaurants. If I’m grabbing something quick for lunch then I don’t want a lengthy welcome and a conversation, I just want to hand over my money, get some food and a smile is the only other thing I want. However, if I’m spending a small fortune in a high-end restaurant I deserve excellent, not just adequate service.
It also depends where you are. For instance, certain industries need to offer a slightly different quality of service. If I’m in a bank I deserve service primarily with efficiency. If I’m in a restaurant, I want friendliness. Perhaps most importantly, if I’m in a hospital, I deserve service that is, above all other things, compassionate.
In healthcare compassion isn’t just a luxury, it’s an essential thing. When people are unwell or damaged they deserve more than the usual attention. They need more than just a smile, they need to know that the person serving them genuinely cares about them and understands that they are anxious, in pain or miserable. All very unlike the experience of someone who spoke to me a few days ago. With a few wonderful exceptions, their experience of healthcare was dismissive, uncaring, sometimes even brutal. In those situations we deserve something a lot better than the norm. That’s not a fallacy, it’s a humane truth.