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Are You Being Toyed With?

I have a daughter who is rather partial to dark chocolate ginger cookies. No sooner do they enter the house, they vanish into the dark and gloomy dungeon, otherwise known as her bedroom.

I’m told that chocolate has remarkable and essential properties for teenage girls (I’m told this by my teenage daughter, so this might not be wholly impartial or reliable, but I am prepared to let it pass.)

Having devoured three of the heavenly arterial constricting spheroids (approved by her mother), she provocatively requests a fourth to which she gets a quick rebuttal.

Now what can she do? Having been denied this pleasure by her mum, where else can she go? Of course, dear old dad! Dear old, old, preoccupied, soft dad.

And so she makes her way gently, calmly, serenely upstairs to the office where I work; tip-toeing so as not to annoy me before the request is made. And as she enters the room she suddenly loses years, presenting herself with her sweet angelic face, looking up to me with pure love, admiration and respect; and in dulcet tones which transport me back to her first words, says “Daddy…” (not Dad, or ‘Bumface’ or ‘old Codger’, but ‘Daddy’ – a name I haven’t heard for six years) “…can I have a ginger cookie, please?” And unable to help myself I say “Yes. Help yourself”.

Tragedy!!! Note: I didn’t just say ‘Yes’. I also said ‘Help yourself!” Which is exactly what she’ll do! No one more ginger cookie, but three or maybe more. Full approval sought and won.

Of course I am now in the dog house. And rightly so. because I have made the fundamental error of not being aligned with the rules of the house. I didn’t know about the other three cookies and I didn’t know she had already been denied. And that left me open to manipulation.

My daughter will need to know that this story has a point other than to parade her dark chocolate ginger cookie desire.

My point is that I see too many teams operating in this way, and that makes them vulnerable to exploitation from customers and suppliers alike. Failure to speak with one voice, means that individual team members are picked off one by one until the soft, pliable one is found.

If a customer doesn’t like the answer they get from you, they go to your colleague. Quickly it becomes obvious that this game works because customer’s get different answers to identical questions depending on who they ask. So they search around for the one person who will give them what they want, leaving the ‘team’ in disarray.

The irony is that in most cases, this isn’t good for customer, just as it isn’t good for the team. The resulting argument (or discussion) between my wife and I creates a dark atmosphere in the home and chocolate treats are removed from the shopping list for a month. But think of the wider implications for your customers:

Customers NEED teams to be together. If they have a relationship with the team rather than interacting on a ‘one-off’ basis, they need the certainty and confidence that whoever they approach from within the team, they will get the same and the right answer. This saves time and angst, all of which cost money.

  1. Customers want to know what they are getting. This isn’t possible if the team offering is not well-defined. You can’t have a brand which depends on how someone is feeling from one day to the next.

  2. Customers need a team to be organised. Dis-organised teams create confusion, waste and errors.

  3. Customers need teams to be accountable. They need to know that their issues will be addressed by the team, not by who-ever feels like it (or doesn’t, as the case may be).

So, although it might feel like a victory for a customer who manages to take advantage of a weak team, it will only be short-lived. Because a team that is not together ultimately won’t be in a position to serve the customer. It won’t have a product worth selling, and even if it does, it won’t be able to sell it at an affordable price. That’s because the internal waste will make it non-viable.

And even if  by some miracle you can overcome all this and still find customers who are prepared to pay over the odds, a fractured team will continue to hurt its customers by delay, diminished quality and inconsistent service levels. No customer wants that. No customer will buy that…more than once.

So if you feel you are being toyed with by your customers, ask yourself: “Are we together as a team? ” If not, do something about it. Because you aren’t the only victim in this scenario.

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