Oct 5, 2010
We have met the enemy and he is the customer
The Twitter stream from a colleague taking the train back to Berlin after the ProZ conference in Prague was unexpected and shocking. German railway employees assaulting unarmed Czech passengers, abusing them ever more loudly as their confused, embarassed victims waited for the boot to descend and the police arrive, which they finally did to back up their uniformed brothers from Deutsche Bahn. Only spirited resistance by other passengers and reminders that Kundenservice doesn't always mean serving your customer's head on a platter finally caused the uniformed tormenters to relent. Service is a foreign word, taken prisoner to do duty where no native word for the concept exists, and when it comes time to enjoy this serrvice, one is too often reminded that Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland, especially not for such ideas.
Face it, customers are the enemy. Isn't that so? My business isn't Burger King. How dare they presume to have it their way! You don't have to be a German railway employee to understand what a bother these people are, disturbing our perfect routines with their perfectly unreasonable projects. Vee muss train zem. Kundenerziehung. Now that's a word to export along with all those Mercedes cars and cool machine tools. Maybe it can come in a boxed set with a leather corset and a whip.
It's simply too much to ask that we recognize, accept and forgive the human fallability of our customers. That we forego the opportunity to enlighten them with brutally frank commentary on their second language competence and offer to let them kiss our college class rings in exchange for the grammar lesson. Emotional intelligence is a moron from Oxy when you're right.
Years ago, Mike (a consulting customer of mine) told me about his "big break" as a salesman for some sort of parts. His stuff was simply the best. Best quality, best price, best delivery time. Probably bore God's Own Seal of Approval, too, since he was in Oklahoma at the time. But the purchasing agent at the prospect was simply too stupid to realize that he and his company were missing out on the real deal. Mike tried for years to get that account, but the dummies just kept buying inferior stuff from the competition. And all the while he had to listen to the puchasing agent's piteous whining, his inferiority complex about being whupped by his brother-in-law at bass fishing. Finally, Mike couldn't stand it any more and brought him a package of his favorite rubber worms and explained how to hook and use them. The next time Mike visited, the guy surprised him with an order and bored him to tears with the tale of the jaw-dropping bass he caught the day bro-in-law got skunked. And he kept on ordering after that. But what did the customer learn about the better product he was now buying? Not a damned thing. Don't be like Mike. Teach your customers a lesson!