No one like to realize that he or she is wrong. It’s hard for individuals to do it and sometimes even harder for organizations.
Customer Satisfaction is about ensuring customers are happy with your products and services. But sometimes things don’t work out right and need to be fixed.
If an organization and the people within have difficulty accepting that they are ‘wrong’ and the customer is ‘right’, they fall into a trap of trying to blame the customer.
In a Video from the Ted Conference, Kathryn Schulz talks about the kinds of rationalization people and organizations go through when they are ‘wrong’.
1. Error Blindness: The inability to see that something is wrong from the customer’s point of view.
2. Incorrect Assumptions related to the fact that something is wrong:
a. The Ignorance Assumption: The customer just doesn’t understand and when we explain it to them, they will understand and there is no problem.
b. The Idiot Assumption: The customers are intellectually inferior, or dumb, or blind and cannot understand so there is no problem
c. The Evil Assumption: People understand but are distorting the facts for their own gain. (An example of this could be to attribute negative reviews on the internet as coming from competitors or disgruntled employees) so there is no problem.
Using these erroneous assumptions, organizations perpetuate error blindness, continue with practices, policies or product defects, leading to customer dissatisfaction and in many cases, customer defection.
Here’s the Kathryn Schulz video from the Ted Conference about how it feels to be wrong.
Companies like individuals do not like to be perceived to be wrong.
Ford Pinto Example
The Ford Pinto , a 1970s subcompact is a classic case of error blindness. According to a Newsweek site, “Because of the placement of the car’s gas tank, the Pinto had a tendency to burst into flames when rear-ended—even at moderate speeds. Even worse, Ford had apparently realized the problem but decided it would be cheaper to settle claims for damages than it would be to fix the problem, as Mother Jones reported based on an internal Ford memo. Dozens died in fires before the company finally agreed to recall the car in 1978. This 1973 Pinto was used as evidence in a 1980 court case.
An extensive investigation covered in an article by Mother Jones …found these root causes:
- Fighting strong competition from Volkswagen for the lucrative small-car market, the Ford Motor Company rushed the Pinto into production in much less than the usual time.
- Ford engineers discovered in pre-production crash tests that rear-end collisions would rupture the Pinto’s fuel system extremely easily.
- Because assembly-line machinery was already tooled when engineers found this defect, top Ford officials decided to manufacture the car anyway—exploding gas tank and all—even though Ford owned the patent on a much safer gas tank.
- For more than eight years afterwards, Ford successfully lobbied, with extraordinary vigor and some blatant lies, against a key government safety standard that would have forced the company to change the Pinto’s fire-prone gas tank.
In this case, the Ford Executives appeared to be guilty of another erroneous assumption: We can hide it.
We all need to be conscious that we can be wrong. Each of us individually can be wrong and organizations, as an accumulation of individuals, can be wrong. Error blindness can take place at all levels in an organization and there are common rationalizations we use to justify our beliefs and actions.
Customer satisfaction professionals need to ensure that the customer’s voice is heard and work diligently to overcome Error Blindness with their organization. Watch for the erroneous assumptions trap.
What is your opinion of these ideas? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.