Lights Out

Having witnessed the total eclipse on August 21st left me in total thrall over one of nature’s grandest displays. Near a cousin’s home in Missouri, in the path of the totality, I got to see the sun gradually give way to the moon’s disc. Ever powerful, the sun never quite let its presence be denied. But for two and a half minutes, there was a glorious muting of the mid-day sunshine.

Back on earth, I struggled to use this as an illustration. With my eclipse glasses (and not those dangerous knock-offs), I had seen the sun’s horns appear as it was slowly devoured. Once upon a time, a brilliant light called customer service shown over the land. It illuminated business transactions. Customers and business alike knew this was the way they wanted it to be.

For some years now, a shadow has been crossing, eclipsing the light. Used to be, customer service had a shared definition between the parties to a transaction. Everyone knew what it was and what it was not. Then the idea was hatched that much money could be made by reconfiguring the definition by one side and by convincing the other side that the change was good.

The recent Equifax debacle brought it all home for me. The theft of 140 million records wasn’t bad enough. The follow up had to be some of the worst customer service imaginable. (See the recent article in Bloomberg News or the latest edition of The Economist.) You cannot make this stuff up! The PR machine is engaged at full RPM to churn out platitudes about commitment to YOU and protecting YOUR safety and taking YOUR privacy seriously.

Somewhere along the line, they didn’t go off message. They disconnected the message from the mission. Customer service should always be part of the mission. It isn’t just part of the mantra.

We should be demanding a genuine, full-sun-in-the-sky customer experience.