ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

October 1998


Employees First, Customers Second

Adding Life To Learning

Knowledge Management: It's Really About People

Tricks Of The Trade From The Greatest Showman On Earth


Food For Thought
by Peter Block

Working With Alligators
by Michael Robinson


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Food For Thought
by Peter Block

We may have reached the point where we have gone too far in our desire to make the customer always right. Customer service has become an ideology, breeding a sense of entitlement as troubling as the original customer indifference that which rise to the quality movement.

You witness the dark side of the customer at an airline departure gate every time an airplane is late. An angry mob of passengers, usually guys, leaning into the gate agent as if the agent had purposely grounded the plane or called in the bad weather.

Or at a golf course when tee times are running an hour late because a corporate group of non-golfers are playing too slowly and the house can’t speed them up. An angry mob of golfers, usually guys, leaning into the starter’s table as if the starter had purposely slowed down play by telling everyone on the course to take their time.

We want good service, but something is also required of the customer. Something more than generic urgency or reading their rights.

A Tired Tale
Nordstrom’s Department store received a lot of good publicity for its legendary service when someone requested and got a refund for an automobile tire and Nordstrom’s doesn’t even sell tires. We applauded Nordstrom’s for this world class refund and claimed this was great customer service.

Well, why didn’t we wonder who that customer was and what in the world were they doing taking a tire back to the store where they didn’t buy it? And where did they get the tire in the first place? Was it a Christmas present they simply took to the nearest merchandiser? And when they realized that Nordstrom’s did not sell tires, why didn’t they apologize for the inconvenience and roll it down to Sears? As a side light, I wonder what department they took the tire to—men’s furnishings?

Don’t we realize that giving the refund for that tire simply raised the purchase price for the next customer in line? Delighting the customer, a good thing, has had the side effect of becoming a breeding ground for license and entitlement, which is already epidemic in this culture.

Regulations of Our Own Creation
The problem is even more rampant in the relationship between government and its citizens. You can not say the word, government, without getting a frown in response. So, who’s problem is this?
What is convoluted about our complaints of government is that when it comes to regulations, most of them were enacted as a solution to a problem caused by the very citizens and businesses that are complaining about their existence. We wouldn’t have to wear seat belts if we didn’t run into each other so fast and so often. We wouldn’t have environmental controls if we had not been indifferent about our waste.

A change in government will occur when citizens decide to take responsibility for their own safety. Their own neighborhood. Their own community. And when do we start to take some responsibility for our relationship with our leaders?

Give Me a Break
Which brings me, dangerously, to the President Clinton nightmare. Put aside for a moment the hole he has dug for himself and the black widow spider death march he is engaged in with Mr. Starr. What is most disturbing is not their behavior, but our obsession with the details.

What carnal appetite leads us to think we have a right to read the report to Congress and view the Grand Jury testimony? It is on TV day and night. One channel has shown nothing else for weeks except their speculation on the details of our undoing. The Grand Jury video was even promoted ahead of time like a summer movie release, telling us it would be shown at 9:05 a.m. on Monday. Not 9:00 or 9:07, but 9:05, don’t miss it, glue yourself to the set and buy product during the intermissions.

We are told by the media that through freedom of information, we have a right to know. True, but it is really more about ratings than rights? What happened to the right of privacy? What is behind our willingness to enter the invasion of privacy room just because someone opened the door? Would the media flood us with the story if we weren’t watching?

There is something in our hunger for details and blood that expresses our need to destroy those people that we put in power. And this is as true in the workplace as it is with politicians. It is our appetite that is interesting and disturbing, not Clinton’s foolishness. Why do we celebrate his fall with our attentiveness? We project onto leaders the vulnerability that we can not carry ourselves. We give their failings and humanity a level of attention that if aimed at us, we would find unbearable. If we can send a bullet into the heart of their betrayal, perhaps the bullet won’t find us.

Feasting On Our Leaders
What is happening recalls the story of Sir James Cook. In 1777, Cook, an English explorer sailed to the Hawaiian Islands and was received as a god. His white skin and white sails had been prophesied by local tradition and the people gave him absolute power. For two years he reigned as their overlord and icon of perfection. He then had to return to England after which he would return to the island and resume the position he had come to enjoy. A few days into his return sail to England, a storm destroyed the rigging on his ship and he was forced back to the Islands. When his ship limped ashore, the people, seeing the damage, realized he was a man, not a god. Disappointed and hungry, they boiled him and ate him for dinner.

Something similar is happening between the citizens of this country and our leaders, Clinton is now the main entree, I wonder what the specials will be tomorrow.

Bon Appetite!

October '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
  • Print this page
  • Save this page

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this item

View comments
Add comments
Comments FAQ

ASQ News