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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 17-Apr-08


Thursday 17-April-08

Service hazards

Is customer service a good thing? Is it a good idea to say thank you for your custom? Maybe not always so. A florist recently sent a 'thank you for your order' note to a man who ordered a dozen red roses. The problem was what he ordered them for his mistress but the thank-you note was sent to his home where his wife opened and read it -- and realized that the flowers were for someone else. The man is now suing the florist, which is not very nice but perhaps unsurprising given his cheating on his wife -- it seems he was more troubled at being found out than remorseful for his deceptive action.

There's a lesson here around customer service and relationship management which suggests a little more thought about potential damage from well-meaning actions. Even calling to say thank you for your custom may be seen as over-doing it.

Another bugbear I have is customer surveys. Whilst I have great sympathy for their potential value, you are often asked to fill them out in the presence of the person being assessed. This will skew the data enormously as there is significant social pressure not to criticize people when they are there. And even if you do it later, it is still more an assessment of their social skills than the real service you received. In practice, the real benefit of such surveys is to encourage the person being assessed to be nice as they know that if they annoy you then you have a weapon in the feedback form.

And this is just the beginning. People are complex beings who often respond in complex ways. They resist being manipulated and may be contrarian just for spite or will respond in unexpected ways.

The bottom line is a caveat to service providers: when seeking to motivate, think hard about the real effects of what you do.

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