Customer Experience: a personal insight into people and organisations (part II)


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This post follows on from the previous one – if you have not read it then you may wish to do so, as this post continues the story, the conversation.

Trust – I put my life in the hands of ‘others’

I awaken and notice that I am back in the day ward, what happened, what am I doing here? Confusion. My last memory is of being in the ‘operating theatre’: the nurses are hooking me up to equipment and assuring me that they will be monitoring my vital signs throughout the procedure. The Consultant inserts a needle into my hand, the sedative flows I can feel that it is warm. Now I am awake, here in this ward.

The nurse offers me a tea and sandwiches, I refuse. She gently and confidently tells me that the right thing to do is to take the tea and sandwiches. I agree – she comes across as she knows what she is doing and she is doing it out of care for me. After finishing the ‘meal’ and the paperwork, she tells me someone will be along soon to take me to another ward until my wife can come and collect me.

As I am wheeled along to the other ward I reflect on what happened today and has happened before. How many times have I put my life at risk – in the hands of the medical profession? It occurs to me that trust is present between me, the doctors and the nurses. I trust that they will act in my best interests, to take care of me, to safeguard my life by doing the right thing. I can think of two instances where the medical profession saved my life: at the age of 8 when I walked into the path of van and then in my mid-20s when I had a blockage in an artery ……

What is the bedrock of this trust? I am of the view that the medical profession is bound by the prime directive: do no harm. I am convinced that the doctors and nurses are here for me – to serve me, to cater for my needs, my welfare – and not the other way around. I believe that there are rigorous standards in place to ensure competence – these folks know what they are doing, they haven’t just walked off the street. What would happen if this trust was eroded? Would we, here in the UK, end up in the same place as the USA? Highly likely. Trust is THE lubricant of friction free relationships between human beings. Trust is what makes all forms of social organisation possible.

Now compare this with the business world. What is the prime directive? Can you and I honestly say that the prime directive is to do no harm to customers? What about the design of the business system? Is ‘business’ there to serve me and my needs or is it there to find means to sell stuff to anyone who can be persuaded to buy it? Is it somewhere in the middle? What about competence? How sure can you and I be that the business folks we depend on are competent? I know of a bank where the vast majority of customer services staff cannot accurately answer the top 10 frequently asked questions. And then are the customer facing staff in stores – most of them do not have the requisite product knowledge nor the skills to listen to / talk with customers.

Care: the difference that makes all the difference?

The Consultant telling the nurse that he was going to give me a sedative as that was the right thing to do. And instructing her to find me a bed showed up as care – care for me.

The nurse ringing around, finding a bed, coming back to tell me with a smile in her being, showed up as care – care for me, for my well being.

The Consultant and the team rearranging the operating schedule to put me lower on the list – as I was in lots of pain and not ready to be ‘operated’ on – showed up as care, care for me.

The nurses talking to me, explaining what was about to happen, pointing out that they were hooking me up to equipment to monitor my vital signs throughout the procedure showed up as care – care for me.

The nurse offering/encouraging me to have that tea and sandwich after the ‘operation’ showed up as act of care – care for me.

The trainee nurse coming up every so often to measure my blood pressure showed up as care – care for me.

The nurses on the receiving ward who got that I was not lucid, who first found me chair to sit in and then later moved me to the bed (when it became available) and then put blanket on me showed care – care for me!

What I am present to is the kindness/care of strangers, the kindness of my fellow human beings, the kindness of the medical professionals – at my GP’s surgery and at Heatherwood Hospital. What showed up in my experience was caring and competence. Caring is not enough it requires competence. Competence is not enough, it requires authentic caring for the other as fellow human being. I say that if you care then you make sure that you do all that you need to do to be competent. Put differently, ensuring competence is a key act of caring and if incompetence is present then that shows a lack of caring, indifference.

Authentic caring involves doing what is right including going against the wishes of the customer if that is the right thing to do. After the procedure, when I woke up I was ready to get dressed and literally walk home – I felt that fine. I told the nurses that I would walk to the other ward. I asked the nurses to leave him outside on the lawn until my wife turned up so that I would not take up a bed that someone else needed. They ignored me. Why? They had a better map of the situation – they knew that I was not lucid, not fit to make decisions, not fit to look after myself.

One other thought occurs to me, the level of caring varied from one person to another. Put differently, caring did not show up as an organisational quality, it showed up as personal quality. That is to say that some people cared and showed their caring whereas others did not. Which suggests to that the organisation is not consciously, deliberately cultivating a culture of caring.

Now lets take a look at the business world, how do business organisations show care for their customers? Does care show up in the lives of customers? In what sense do customers feel cared for? What would show up if genuine care, for customers and their well being, was present? How would that effect product development, marketing, sales, customer service, logistics, finance…? Could it be that genuine care will work where all the shiny toys and fashionable tricks are not working?

And finally

I will conclude this series of posts by sharing with you the aspects of my ‘customer experience’ that were not so great and highlighting issues’/factors that need to be addressed.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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