“Customers have a tendency to become like the kind of customers you treat them.”
That quote really goes to the heart of something I’ve observed in plenty of senarios, but then I don’t even like the word customer.
It really is true, you get back what you sow. For example I bought a hundred dollar item today. This purchase involved a price match, a rebate, a coupon and 15 minutes of waiting while various assistent managers sought ways to decline to deal. The three vendors involved treat the entire exercise as a form of gaming for the benefit of their advertising and discrimitory pricing schemes. The customer service people treated me if I was very likely a criminal. The entire relationship created by these games is a train wreck. No trust at all anywhere in the transaction. What a mess! Not really worth saving 40$ on a 90$ purchase; but they created the game and I’m playing.
One of the facinating things about Open Source is the how the people that consume the output of the projects are treated. No coddling customer support lines staffed by people who though they never ever loose their temper but sadly know little about the product. But instead the users are treated as peers. Always a hope that this user will become a contributor. Always the expectation that everybody is in this together. And yes, if you treat people like that they tend to grow into the role.
The quote also reminded me a bit of one company I work with: T-mobile’s prepaid cell phone service. When you call these guys it’s great. You always feel as if they are happy in their work. You always feel as if you have a bit of common cause with them against the mysteries of modern telecom systems. Not that your allied against the company, but that your allied against your joint problem. I don’t know how they manage this; but I like it.
Scott Lofftesness pulled it from an essay that otherwise didn’t greatly impress me. But that quote is exactly right and it runs deeper that it might at first appear.
Many many years ago I was working on a project and we were optomistic that a large firm might partner with us. It was going well until our contracting people got involved. Suddenly the folks at the big firm called up and announced that don’t work with people who worked like that. They were right, you shouldn’t. When you start to realize your going to have to mirror the behaviors of the other guy, and those behaviors aren’t constructive – well bleck.