Posts Tagged ‘customer’

Serving Customers or Making Cars?

November 11, 2008

There seems to be a subtle shift that takes place in the history of most businesses.  Let’s say Barney was a cave man who made great wagons.  But there are only 20 people who live in his known world so as soon as he makes 20 wagons he’s out of business.  If he can’t imagine using his skills for anything but wagon-making we might then see him sneaking around at night burning the wagons to rekindle demand.  Or the town witch doctor knows he would not be needed if everyone were healthy.  So he “creates” illnesses to keep his patients coming back rather than attempting to help them find ultimate health.

Now fast forward to 2008 in America – same deal.  We have auto manufacturers who can’t risk making a car that really lasts – they need 5-year obsolescence.  Parts that wear out and systems that malfunction are a necessary component of keeping the machine of making cars in place.  It would be self-defeating to make a car that semi-permanently met the customer’s needs.  You have to hope the customer doesn’t stay happy with their purchase for too long. 

Do you really think we aren’t smart enough to make a lightbulb that would last essentially forever?  But what would that do to the sales of lightbulbs?  

What if a counselor or chiropractor really helped every client they saw?  Got them to a point of healthy functioning on their own?  How would he/she pay the mortgage the next month?  Keeping people dependent on their services may become more important than seeing them get better. 

If you realize your “work” is more dependent on keeping a system in place than on meeting the real needs of your customers, you are indeed vulnerable.   Real estate developers, publishing houses, record labels, auto manufacturing and “investment” firms are all suffering in their attempts to keep systems in place rather than responding to the changes in demand of the marketplace.

What we need are new ways to engage our creative skills; not government support to allow us to keep doing what no longer works. 


I happen to be a car enthusiast, but I think it’s a joke that someone “decided” we needed new models every calendar year?  My primary car is a 1991 Mercedes 500SL – it’s 18 years old!  It looks great, has great styling and is fun to drive.  I’d love to see a 5-year car – where nothing changed for at least 5 years, or even 10.  Can you imagine the streamlining of parts and service, and the reduced waste from excessive manufacturing?

Now – what are you doing in your work or business to make sure you are serving your customer’s needs, even if those needs change?

No Thanks!

September 6, 2008

Joanne and I are in Washington DC this week for a couple of key speaking and meeting commitments.  I noticed that there was going to be an event here in Washington DC on the Friday night while we were here that I was interested in attending.  So 23 days prior to the event I sent a message to the organization offering to help usher people to their seats, distribute programs, or whatever would be useful.  I didn’t pull some big “I’m important” card or anything – just said we would be willing to help in any way that would be useful.  I heard nothing – and frankly, I forgot I had even sent the note.  On the day of the event, I received this message in reply.


Thank you for your e-mail to Joel Osteen Ministries.  We appreciate your interest in volunteering for a Joel Osteen Ministries tour event.  To sign up, you will need to first register using the “register now” link located at the upper right corner of the website.  After registration, you will automatically be directed to the sign up page to choose a team to volunteer.  If you have previously registered, the website will not allow a second registration.  You will need to login with the username and password that was provided to you upon initial registration with the website.  If you have forgotten your password, you will need to choose the “forgot password” option located on the login page and your password will be e-mailed to you.

Thank you and God bless,

You’ve got to be kidding — no personal greeting – and then this complicated process of signing up to help?  I would have been fine if I had gotten an immediate autoresponder that just said they had all the arrangements made.  Or that they had a training session scheduled for all volunteers two weeks in advance.  But this impersonal maze of roadblocks sent on the same day as the event served nothing more than to irritate me, and to discourage me from any connection at all.

Bigger is not always better.  If getting bigger has caused you to lose a personal connection with your customers, clients, friends or congregants, you are in danger of following the pattern of Enron, WorldCom, Sears, Bear Stearns or Countrywide.  Even God’s work doesn’t get a pass for lousy customer service.

Bad Customer — Big Tip

January 2, 2008

Every once in a while a story comes through that seems made for the movies. For seven years waitress Melina Salazar did her best in caring for her customers – even the most cantankerous ones. Apparently her biggest challenge was 89-year-old Walter “Buck” Swords. She made sure his food was hot and she just smiled through his demands and frequent cursing. (Reminds me of Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets with the unreasonable Jack Nicholson.)Well, ole “Buck” just died and left his waitress Melina $50,000 and his 2000 Buick. She says, “I still can’t believe it.”

Now – how would you treat each customer of yours today, or each student, or every co-worker if you knew there was the possibility that one of them would leave you $50,000 and a Buick? Why don’t you just try it for three days? Who knows how your payoff may appear?