Towards the end of a long flight, I was offered a customer satisfaction survey to complete.  I was very happy to take it:  my experience had been good enough that it was worth feeding back the couple of things which could have made it better.

But I couldn’t.  There was a long list of multiple choice questions going into tedious detail about things that I didn’t really care about – and no way at all to record the things on which I actually had an opinion.  I suspect that the airline congratulates itself on its customer insight and, for all I know, acts on it to improve the service.  But while they clearly have a lot of customer research, they have deprived themselves of the opportunity to get insight.

Being on the receiving end of that was really frustrating – and really brought home how easy it is to make even customer research yet another thing which is producer focused rather than customer focused.  And if that’s happening in a highly competitive, low margin business, how much easier for those of us concerned with public services to fail to notice that that is what we are doing?

Coincidentally. I found a post by Seth Godin on the faceless bureaucracy of air travel, including gems such as:

Why does the FAA require the airlines to explain to every passenger how to buckle their seatbelt? Don’t people who have managed to safely get to the airport but have never mastered this skill deserve whatever happens to them?

The preamble to his post is to ask:

Have you ever noticed that we don’t have a word for the opposite of faceless (as in faceless bureaucracy)? Faceful? Perhaps that’s because bureaucracies, by their nature, refuse to answer to us when something is broken.

Well, yes.  But it certainly isn’t just bureaucracies.  Any organisation which insists on defining in advance the questions it is prepared to ask makes itself deaf to voices which have something different to say.

Picture by Mattingham, some rights reserved.