Tomorrow, I was your customer Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Thursday, 24 June 2010 18:26
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Weird how the most appropriate messages jump out at you from the least likely places. You know how a new word, one you’ve come across for the first time in your life, suddenly starts popping up in all sorts of places, don’t you? Well, something like that happened to me the past month. For years I’ve been getting these rather unwelcome mails from some or other management training institute.

They all end up in my deleted items bin. The past while I kept getting one with a title that sort of jumped out at me: “Tomorrow, I was your customer.” Finally I read it. No, girlfriend; don’t worry. I’m not going to sprout forth about management training. The title might just as easily have been: Tomorrow, I was your friend. The thing that hit me was that they’re saying customer service is a perception, not a reality. Same with friendship, or any other relationship, come to think of it. And it’s scary how easily such a perception can change.

The mail I received says that your customer service is not how good you say it is; it is only as good as your customers experience it to be. People react to you based on their perception of you – not on how you really are. And then the mail goes on to say that you can go to a workshop where they will teach you how to govern and manipulate that perception.

Now, somehow this is acceptable, and even expected, in a business set-up, but pretty scary in a more intimate relationship. “It’s at the top of my list of priorities.” Or how about: “Please hold. Your call is important to us.”

Maybe I’ve just been desensitised by these phrases, but in any kind of personal relationship they would just sound like empty formulas to me. Be that as it may, I don’t doubt that you can “govern and manipulate” someone else’s perception of yourself, your company or your products. My problem is to try to “govern and manipulate” my own perception of people; especially in those instances where things have taken a turn for the worst.

Okay, they say it’s a sign of borderline personality if you take a sudden and irreversible 180 degree turn in the way you see someone. So then I shouldn’t really say out loud that it happens to me, should I? But it does and I really do struggle to manipulate my own feelings back to the way they were before whatever-it-is happened. The worst is that I have a hard time hiding this.

This is probably the reason why the words “Tomorrow, I was your customer” hit home. I think it’s the idea that something can happen at any time that will change the perception you have about someone, or that someone has about you. Kind of like a ticking time bomb, you know.

Granted, the word ‘bomb’ might be a bit melodramatic here, so let’s rather try to see it the wabi sabi way. The wabi sabi concept originated in 16th-century Japan where artists started leaving a flaw in every picture they created to remind them of the beauty to be found in imperfection.

Friendships aren’t perfect; people in customer relations aren’t perfect; bombs will not explode when things aren’t perfect. Whether your computer crashes, your cash flow goes for a loop or you have a conflict situation at work or home – your reactions cannot change what has already happened. Your emotions make no difference to the outcome of anything in the past.

As far as trying to force your own perceptions to change goes; I don’t think we’re meant to do it. I think we’re meant to feel whatever we’re feeling; to sort of sit it out. Because the feeling will pass. Everything does.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to improve your situation. It just means that you should stop judging each feeling you have while you’re having it. Try seeing your feelings as neither wrong nor right, neither bad nor good. They just are what they are.

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