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On a flight last Wednesday we had a little accident. The kind that involves small, tired kids, food and a chain reaction. You get the gist. As we were trying to clean up, necessarily blocking the aisle, a flight attendant walked passed a few times. Eventually, as he tried to squeeze through once more, to get a payment card terminal to his colleagues, I lost my patience a bit and suggested he could perhaps give us a hand with some tissues instead.

That’s when I heard that he’s “only doing his job”.

Right, that’s what he was doing. It was evident, clearly visible, plain obvious – my idea of what his job was and his idea of what the job entailed were miles apart. He was focused on what his company demanded of him, perhaps to hit a sales target for the flight. I was just hoping for some customer care and empathy.

This sadly is not an isolated occurrence. Time and time again we find organisations have become internally focused following processes, creating policies, taking measurements and chasing targets that have no bearing on the customer experience. Worse still, since corporate actions are not guided by what the customers really need they end up delivering nothing short of a disastrous experience.

Fortunately we can find organisations that understand the only way to build a sustainable business is to face in the opposite direction. They look past the boundaries of their edifice. They go out and talk to their customers, they waste no opportunity to gather feedback and they change direction when their customers become unhappy. This is what you should be doing if you’re aiming to stay in business and grow in the long run.

As for the airline, we’ll avoid it the next time we fly.

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