When a restaurant patron needs help, a staff member’s announcement that “It’s not my table” is just not an acceptable answer. It’s a particularly infuriating answer when customers who have relationships with multiple service units within a larger service organization can’t get what they need and end up banging into silo walls.
Here’s the sorry example that was just reported to me:
A customer arrives at a service department he visits frequently to take care of some account maintenance. Before he leaves, he asks the department receptionist if she can pass along a document to another department. What’s the receptionist’s answer?
And what’s the customer supposed to say in response?
How many things are wrong with this picture? Between the de facto rudeness and receptionist’s complete lack of effort to accommodate the customer in any way at all, it’s too painful to try to parse out the potential damage of this incident.
It would have been a huge mistake with any customer. This happened to be a longstanding customer, whose past business has been quite good, and whose future business (assuming it’s not negatively affected by this incident) would, theoretically, be excellent, considering the typical lifetime value and where he is in the service lifecycle. In addition, this particular customer is part of a core group of customers who act as influencers and community-builders for the organization.
Silos are for Missiles and Animal Feed, Not Customers
The unbelievably negative impression could have been avoided very easily, even if the receptionist herself was merely a victim of “silo enforcement,” rather than a perpetrator of it. All she had to say was something like:
This is by no means an optimal solution. It would not resolve any of the organization’s internal problems or ease the difficulties of doing business with them. So why aren’t I advocating for full disruption of this organization’s “silo culture,” or arguing for a single point of resolution? Because in many organizations, if there is no way to improve incrementally, there will literally be no improvement at all.
A slightly more gracious, slightly less obtuse interaction may be the closest this organization can get — at least in the immediate future — to a more satisfactory customer experience.
And isn’t the customer entitled to that?
Onward and upward,