I am a consumer. I pay my health insurance company (as one example) many dollars every month and deposit money into a bank-held health savings account. The two companies had a miscommunication about my accounts and alas, I was the one who had to facilitate the problem solving. As much as I would like to complain about the details, I will spare you that and cut to the chase.

Whom are they in business to serve? Clearly not me. It would seem they are in business to serve their systems.

An organization I know has its supervisors telling their employees, “You have to do this right because it shows up on management reports.”
I am fed up with the administrative insanity in the world.
“Ma’am, you opted out of our system.”
“I’m sorry, but our CRM system won’t let us do that.”
“We’ve gone paperless, so a supervisor has to examine your file before we can act.”
“No, I’m sorry, but there’s no supervisor available.”
“I’ll have to send you a new application so you can check the box ‘y’ so the bank can activate you even though you are already a customer.”
“I’m not allowed access to that information. I don’t know what to tell ya.”
There’s a good word for all this. However, it is extraordinarily inappropriate for a business setting. It has 11 letters and starts with a “c.”
Oh, I complained anyway, didn’t I?
Why is your company or employer in business? What is its purpose? Whom does it serve? Is the consumer of your product or service seen as an inconvenience, a hassle that sucks up your time? Or is the consumer seen as a person who keeps your business alive? Both my HSA bank and the insurance company made it pretty clear that I was at fault for not understanding their complicated systems and made me responsible for their communication error. I spent hours on the phone and so did they. There’s a big cost to that (and that, my friends, is what is wrong with health insurance today, but that’s another rant).
I could rant about GM and bailouts and the media…but I won’t. What I will say is, wherever you are in your business, show leadership in serving the people who make your business possible. Keep your eye on the right ball. Help your staff know the priorities and teach them how to deal well with the consumers that pay their salaries. Teach them how to listen well. And never, ever say, “Gee, I just don’t know what to tell ya.”