My mobile phone rang this morning.
-She said: “This is a courtesy call from the Halifax, how are you?”
-I said: “I am at work thanks”
-She said: “I can call you back another time, would you like that?”
-I said: “What is it about?”
-She said: “It is a courtesy call, not about anything in particular, we can call you back another time if its not convenient”
-I said: “Or you could not call me back if its not actually about anything”
-She said: “…..sorry sir? Do you not want to us to call you back?”
-I said: “If it’s not about anything, why are you calling?”
-She said: “Just a courtesy call sir”
-I said: “If it’s not about anything then please don’t call me back, because I wouldn’t know what to say.”
-She said: “Ok sir”
People are paid to do this, clearly, but why? Is there a purpose that I am unaware of? Have I turned into Victor Meldrew? Should I have chatted amiably with the nice lady, if so what about? What she did for the Jubilee? It’s raining here, what’s it like where you are? Generally I am not good on the phone if people ring me “for a chat”, and that’s people I actually know. If an abstract concept such as an organisation phones me for a chat they’ve got no chance.
The Systems Thinking Lesson
I used to work for BT Telemarketing and there was an assumption that customers liked being rang at home between 6pm and 8pm for a salesman to sell them exciting phone products like call minder, interrupting cooking or eating their dinner, children’s bath time etc. This was years ago, I am amazed that it happened and am even more amazed that similar things still do.
Someone thought this was a good idea otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. A whole bunch of people working in the Halifax probably think their contacts are a good idea. The people who probably don’t are the people being called and the people ringing them. At least this one here. I am unaware of any purpose of mine that could be solved by having a chat with the Halifax that wasn’t initiated by me or at least about something.
This is a good example of “Inside-out” thinking. People inside an organisation viewing the world outside it with the mind-set, values, purpose and objectives of that organisation, the customer becoming merely a means to satisfy the ends of the organisation. When I say “inside-out” it really means top-down as that is how things work in command and control organisations. Add the word “strategic” to a job description and you can add more money to the salary and move the post further inside the organisation and away from the customer, strengthening the inside-out top-down perspective and weakening any external feedback loops that may challenge the thinking.
So the people furthest away from the customer are designing the system, creating and spreading the thinking.
BT Telemarketing wanted to sell phone products, so that was its purpose and the customer was a method to achieve that, not an end in itself. I can only guess the purpose of Halifax, but it is probably something around “relationship maintenance” with me. I guess the thinking is that if they ring me I will view them more kindly and I will begin to think they are “my” building society, and therefore less likely to move a mortgage elsewhere for example. But this isn’t my problem, at the moment I think they are a bit silly so that may not have worked. Perhaps it is not even that, perhaps it is blindly following a fad?
The opposite of this type of thinking is “Outside-in” thinking, which looks from the customers perspective, looking at their problem, their purpose, and designing the system of the organisation around that. Not only are customers real and ultimately pay everyone’s wages, they are less faddy and prone to fashionable change than any management team. A much more useful and solid True North.