I have a challenge for you this week.
What I’d like you to do is to go to wherever the actual work is being done in your company (in Lean terms, we call that gemba). When you’re there, listen carefully to the conversations that your team members are having with your customers and the conversations they have with each other regarding your customers. After you listen for a while, ask yourself the following question:
Are my team members talking about our customers as people – human beings – or as non-human, inanimate objects…things…?
Not sure how to tell the difference? Do your team members refer to your customers as “client number two-thirty-two or order number twenty-six”? If they do, then they are referring to your customers as non-human, inanimate objects – things. If they refer to them by name, “Jane, the owner of The Bark-A-Park”, then your team members are referring to your customers as people, actual human beings.
What difference does it make? Why would it matter if your team members refer to your customers as people or things? In my opinion, it makes a huge difference. When we talk about customers as inanimate, non-human things, it is easy to forget that they are real people – human beings – who have wants and needs, feelings and dreams – just like you and I do. Inanimate objects – things – don’t require us to have compassion and empathy in the work we do with them. But people do!
Imagine the difference it could make in the way your team members care for your customers if they thought and talked about them as real people:
Customers referred to as things: “Account number six-fifty-seven is late calling in again. Guess their payroll isn’t going to process today.”
Customers referred to as people: “Jane from Bark-A-Park is late calling in with her payroll. I wonder what’s going on? I think I’ll give her a call to find out what’s up.”
If you were the customer, which way would you prefer to be cared for? No matter what your industry or whether your company is large or small, your customers are real people who want and need to be treated with compassion and empathy – as the human beings that they are.
I’m a person and I want to be treated as a person. I’m sure you do too. I can guarantee that your customers do. What can you do, starting today, to help your team members start thinking – and talking about – your customers as people instead of things?