We Need a Department OF the Customer

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

We have a department of selling to the customer, a department of marketing to the customer, a department of communicating at the customer. We have a department of dealing with customer complaints. But we have no department OF the customer. 

None of these departments really care about the customer. None of them see it as their job to keep the best interests of the customer in mind. To be there as a champion and defender of the customer when marketing or sales says that we need to publish this ad banner, or force them to sign up this content, or when someone in pricing wants to "milk" the loyal customers by increasing the prices they pay.

In most organizations there is simply no department that is there just for the customers. All the departments are lined up to sell something to or get something from the customer. Support is only there for those customers who are really in trouble.

I’ve been in so many meetings over the years where the voice of the customer (or the voice of the employee, for that matter) is rarely if ever heard. There might be one or two isolated voices but they’re not listened to and are often seen as troublemakers.

I remember once sitting in on a presentation where a bunch of marketers were presenting new product ideas and programs. Almost in unison they said to the web manager: “And we’ll be coming to you to get a banner on the homepage.” The homepage was a cluttered mess and most of the week for the web manager was spent fighting off requests for banners and other marketing and management ego content.

This website had a carousel for its banners. The web manager readily admitted that it was useless, that in fact it was counterproductive. But he said that the reason they had it was to keep marketing and management ego at bay. “They like interactive things,” he said. “Things that move and are flashy and that dominate the page. And you can essentially deal with five ego requests in the one space.”

“You're just entry-level position,” a customer service rep recently stated, who worked for a home security company. “You just do what you're told.” Does it make sense that the employees who interact directly with customers have so little value to the organization?

Learning Opportunities

More than 70 percent of sales people, responding to a Dreamforce 2014 Conference survey, said that their companies have lost a customer or sale due to poor performance or reputation related to customer support.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal in February 2015, 74 percent of executives state their top 2015 priority is improving customer experience. Yet, Forrester Research have found that “only 25 percent of Customer Experience (CX) professionals say their company’s CX programs actually improve customer experience.”

We need a radical rethink. The old organizational structures are simply not fit for this Age of the Customer. We need a Department of the Customer that has real power to champion the needs of the customer, to fight for their rights.

These are exciting times. Yes, they’re challenging but there aren’t too many periods when the nature and structure of the organization is forced to change. And this is one of those periods. 

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.