There's a lot to be learned from UNHAPPY customers

Jo Francis
Friday, January 23, 2015

Jo Francis is refreshed and impressed to find a supplier willing to admit to having failed some of its customers

Hands up who has a customer, maybe even more than one, where things have gone wrong and you, as a supplier, have failed to deliver in one way or another. 

Hands really should be raised pretty unanimously. It would be an exceptional business indeed to have a 100% happy client base. 

I'm writing this blog from EFI's Connect worldwide customer event. At the event EFI's CEO Guy Gecht stood up and told the audience about the two-day 'executive retreat' (my description, not his) involving the top 80 managers from the company. 

"We spent 10% of our time on what went well and 90% of our time on what we can get better," Gecht said. 

He also gave a candid description of the task set for the assembled top-tier managers. The firm found 10 customers where EFI hadn't done so well. "Where we'd disappointed them." 

These customers were videoed telling the EFI team in no uncertain terms where and how the company had screwed up. That must have been very cathartic for the customers involved. 

The execs split into 10 groups and were tasked with contacting each of the clients to discuss the problem in detail, and what EFI could do to rectify it/do better next time. 

This process involved a full and frank exchange of views, as you can imagine. 

Maybe in some cases those conversations involved admitting that nothing could be done to fix whatever the issue was. But at least the customer would be absolutely clear about that.

The learnings would also inform future practices at the company. 

I loved hearing about this because a) what a great idea; b) how refreshing to hear a business leader talk about something that wasn't 'the wonderful world of' [insert company name here]; c)  I loved the fact that Gecht spoke about it in an open customer forum. 

Hey, maybe some of the ticked off clients were in the room. I'm willing to bet that most if not all of them would have been impressed by this initiative and will have a not-so-negative view of EFI as a result. Previously broken relationships, mended. 

I reckon management teams in all sorts of print businesses should devote some quality time of their own to this type of effort - there is much to be learned from how and why things screwed up.

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