I am a customer – I do not need any other title

Passengers can be messed about but we take care of customers

“This is an important passenger announcement”, “Subscribers can select additional options”, “For guest use only”, “Shoppers may return goods here”, “Residents must keep the gate locked at all times”, “Seats are for patients only” and “Moviegoers must have a ticket to reenter the theater”.

We see these signs and hear these messages thousands of times a day. Some thoughtful marketing person has encouraged the sign-writers and the public broadcast announcers to make the message more personal, more targeted by describing us as what we do rather than what we are.

And, in doing so, we have lost the basic purpose of these messages. This is us communicating with our customer. The customer should be afforded respect and courtesy because they pay our salaries and feed our children. For the customer, we will do anything to keep them loyal, get them to buy more and maintain a long term relationship. Customers are hard to get and easy to lose.

When we talk about “passengers”, “guests”, “subscribers” and all the rest, far from increasing our connection to the customer we distance it. We separate the value the customers give to us (their time and money) from the service they receive from us (our product and service). When we do this we dehumanize customer and this allows us to treat them as our product and not as our primary concern.

We can easily re-book a late arriving passenger on a later flight but would we change the travel plans of a hard won customer without their consent? We can, with a clear conscience, redirect subscribers who want to cancel their subscription to the least well staffed option of our automated phone system but would we treat them that way if they were, instead, seen as unhappy customers looking to get better service? We can leave nameless, faceless patients unattended for 4 hours and bill them whatever we think we can get away with but if we see them as customers in need of care who chose our hospital over another would we treat them differently medically and financially.

While ever a corporation’s first duty is to the stockholders there will always be bad service.

Next time you are described by what you for the corporation remind them that you are simply a customer and that you have choices.

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