3 signs that you don’t like your customers


Public sector organisations don’t really like customers.

They’d prefer you’d go away and stop making all your unreasonable demands that are quite frankly BANKRUPTING them.

You keep ringing them up,  walking through the door even, and worse… asking to speak to someone.
This is not on, and they’re going to do something about it.

Why? Command and control organisations find costs and cut them.
They think customers are a cost, not their purpose.
This means that they tolerate you at best, but would prefer if you just cleared off.

Here are 3 myths that organisations believe that lead to them disliking, and in the case of public sector organisations actively avoiding YOU, dear customer…

MYTH 1: “Customers want a gold plated service”


Expensive. Whatever it is

A commonly heard statement about users of a service is that they want a “gold plated service“.
I’m not exactly sure what this is but it sounds expensive.
It also sounds impractical, demanding and not a value for money proposition for a public sector organisation.

It is often used when talking about the difficulties faced in doing things for a customer. If we find it hard to do what the customer wants, then clearly what they want must be the problem. What else could it be?

THE TRUTH: Customers want a service that works


Just a customer

I’ve never encountered a Diva demanding a gold plated service.
What I have encountered is customer asking for something and being told “no” they can’t have it. This could be wanting to speak with someone, wanting something on a specific date because that date matters or even just inside a specific timeframe. However, if this ISN’T what we do, if we can only give them it according to our timescale then they are a Diva.
And what do we do with Diva’s and their crazy expectations?….

MYTH 2: “Customers need their expectations managed”


Tame those expectations! TAME THEM!

Due to them wanting a gold plated service, customers need re-educating in what is reasonsble.

In organisation-speak this is having their expectations managed.

Sounds reasonable eh?

This is presented as a sensible and rational approach, who could argue with managing something eh? After all what’s the alternative, that it is left UNmanaged? What are you, some kind of communist?

The Truth: Expectations are managed only when organisations are disfunctional

As ever, Urban Dictionary gives us the low-down.
What is reasonable is what an organisation thinks is reasonable.

Which is entirely unreasonable to any sane person.

A sign that your expectations are being managed is when a service is to be provided within some purely arbitary timescale eg within 2 to 4 weeks. As a customer you probably don’t think in these timescales, you may want it at a particular time, i.e when you are in the house to receive it, or when it otherwise fits in with your life. That life that actually caused you to be a customer in the first place.
Being told 2-4 weeks is YOU being forced to fit in with THEIR organisational disfunction.  It is entirely possible to deliver a service when the customer wants it. Doing otherwise is NOT managing expectations, it is MISmanaging a service.

I’ve left until until last the worst and most telling sign that an organisation does not like its customers. This one is a BIG HIT in Public Sector organisations, but elements of it are to be seen in private too….

MYTH 3: Customer demand has to be managed

With all this demand pouring in, what’s a manager to do except to manage it. Being a manager and all.
But what IS demand management?


Whatever it is it seems very diagrammy

Local authorities see the following equation…

Fewer Customers = Lower Costs

The idea is that is customers are dealt with as cheaply as possible, or even not at all, then they should be.  So if a service can be provided on a cheaper platform such as online or an app, it should be. If a customer is funneled towards self-service it is better than showering them with paid for staff.
Sounds robust eh? Macho even. Butch? Perhaps!

It leads to off shoring of call centres to somewhere cheap, to moving services online, to signposting rather than delivering services.

The Truth: Managing Demand shows that you don’t know h0w to manage demand

Managing demand is not as fussily professorial as “study demand“, it is straight to the managing of the stuff. Who could argue with it? It appeals because it is the same as what is currently happening, it fits. It is about activity and work. “How much work is coming in“, “how much work can we do?” and crucially, “what is the cheapest way to deal with a customer“. Note, cheapest, not best. [see “Gold Plated Service” above]

As with Lean it is best to look at what actually happens rather than the claims. POSIWID and all that.

What do you get if you aim for cutting costs? Increased costs.
Putting something online MIGHT be the best option for some people or some services but not for all, if it is the default choice it becomes the stupid choice. Aiming for lowest cost results in short term thinking, putting customers through the lowest cost transaction route does not tell you if this is the lowest cost in the long term.
An online form to claim a complex benefit like Universal Credit may appear a cheap option of managing demand. But the complexity of benefits and the variety of demand presented is too high to be adequately dealt with by an online form. It will increase costs because purpose will not be met.

Focussing on the cost of demand and how it is handled leads to more expensive service.
Focussing on what matters to the customer is the cheapest way to deliver a service.

This is because focussing on customer purpose delivers the finest-hitting-of-nominal-value known to mankind.

Hitting customer purpose is the cheapest option for the whole system.

The further away you get from nominal value, the greater the cost to the system.

Managing demand increases costs but it is worth it as it keeps pesky customers away.







This entry was posted in command and control, customer, Demand, public sector, systems thinking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 3 signs that you don’t like your customers

  1. Pingback: 3 signs that you don't like your customers | Pl...

  2. Charles Beauregard says:

    Thank you – another excellent post that I’ll share with colleagues in an attempt to make a point.

    Regarding Myth 1, I often find it’s senior managers – far removed from the work – who have this view. I wonder if that’s because the only customers they ever speak to are ones who’ve got to one of the latter stages of a complaints policy? By then the customer has probably had to jump through so many hoops to get what they should get from the service that they are extremely pee’d off that their demands are likely to sound ‘unreasonable’.

    Regarding Myth 3, only last week I was reading a case study from a council I was considering applying for a job at. My hopes were raised when early on in the case study it mentioned failure demand. My hopes were lowered back to reality when later on the case study explains how they deal with that failure demand. It says: “Automated communications keep the customer updated on the status of any requests, reducing the avoidable contact resulting from customers chasing progress.” Instead of tackling the causes of failure demand (e.g. reducing end-to-end time), they’ve decided to stick a plaster over the problem with status updates.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      OMFG! That quote from, they deserve to be named, KINGSTON COUNCIL, woah.
      It’s so beautifully wrong its brought a small tear to my eye.
      Thanks for that, it was a source of amusement today on my pod.


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