Monday, 6 February 2012

Why should thick skins be required?

We've just run a major customer survey. You always have to take a deep breath when you do something like this - you ask people to be honest and you kind of peek out from behind a barrier just to check all is well.

To a great extent we needn't have worried - the vast majority of the feedback was very positive indeed and people said such lovely things about what we do and how we do it. In fact out of the 60 respondents who filled in the survey completely (of 75 who started) 51 were very happy. from the rest we had some very interesting and highly constructive comments.

Except for one...

...and this is where you need a thick skin.

The sad thing is that no matter how much is said that is encouraging, supportive and just plain lovely, it only takes one comment to alter your whole perception. Now, I'm used to all this kind of stuff in my other life as a Marketing Consultant. You know 'it's only business' and 'it's not personal'  - but even I found myself a little sad and even a bit cross about this one rogue respondent. Naturally it was anonymous. There may well have been some reasonable points in the tirade but they were so obscured by the ill-feeling that we found it hard to find them. As a consequence it has served no purpose other than to upset us all!

So I ask, why should you have to have a thick skin? We genuinely don't mind constructive comments and are happy (indeed sometimes delighted) to discuss any aspect of our work with our customers even if that initially starts with someone being cross. We're dealing with parents' most precious possessions here and sometimes inevitably their need to protect and get the best for their children might clash in some way with our priorities. We totally understand that (we've got two of our own) and would much prefer always that they tell us rather than bottle anything up.

But comments which are, well, just nasty...? Where does that get anyone? And more to the point, if they are really that angry what are they doing still with us??? Goodness knows there is enough choice...

Phew! Good old Greeks and their catharsis, eh? Having written this down I now feel I can shed that thick skin again.  It's very important to listen to customers with sensitivity and empathy and you can't do that from behind rhino hide.