Your Customer Doesn't Care

So there we were.  Our big kick off symposium.  The most important marketing event of our fledgling, 6 month old, business.  We’d gone to so much effort to make sure it was slick, well rehearsed, organised and highly professional.  And then, Boom!  A major technology issue after 10 minutes that took us completely off track.  Amateur hour was pounding at the door and we were trying to not let it in.

Beforehand, we’d discussed what could go wrong, so we had back-up presentations and videos, with multiple people with presentation capability and a carefully constructed event plan with timings down to the second.  But guess what?  We hadn’t thought of the scenario that was happening right now.

So, what was the problem?  Well, on the face of it, it would appear that we had the virtual meeting version of “crossed wires”.  It started off when our keynote speaker kept being interrupted by some very loud typing.  After several requests to ask the person in question to stop, it became apparent that they either couldn’t hear us or were ignoring us.  The curious thing was that looking out our participant list, everyone bar our keynote speaker, was on mute.  Yet the typing continued and then was joined by a very loud conversation.  And everyone was still on mute.

Luckily, at this point, one of our audience spoke up to mention that he had seen an issue like this on a virtual meeting within his own business just the week before.  He said that the only solution was to stop this meeting, create a new one and share the link with everyone on this call.  A classic case of the root cause being unknown but a recovery plan identified.

As we reconvened on the new call (and later that day with the team for a debrief), it was all too easy to blame the virtual meeting technology in question.  We had been using it for months now.  We were very impressed by its capabilities – it had largely proven itself to be reliable and able to handle high volume meetings with minimal issues.  But at this critical juncture, it had let us down.

But as we sat their bemoaning our luck and cursing the technology in question to everyone willing to listen, blaming it all on “them”, I was reminded of the many hours I had sat on large incident management calls during my time running enterprise IT at a large financial services company.

On many occasions as an army of technology teams frantically tried to identify an issue or recovery plans, it was a frequent occurrence that the finger pointing would start.  “It’s not an issue with the server, have you checked the database” the technician who looked after the server would say.  “It’s not the database, is there a problem with application?”, replied the database expert.  “The application looks fine, I am sure it must be the server.  Has anything changed?”  And so it went on… and on… and on.  Everyone looking to prove it wasn’t their fault.

But for the customer who couldn’t book their urgent trade or who couldn’t make (or worse, receive) their payment, they didn’t care whether it was the application, the database or the server, they just wanted to use the bit of our service that they had paid for.  Fundamentally, the customer doesn’t care whose fault it was, or even what was causing the issue, they just want it to be fixed.  And for us providing their service, their experience, we have to accept that we had not delivered what they were asking.  It was not necessarily anyone’s fault, but we have to take ownership of any failures in our service, apologise, hold our hand up and promise that we will ensure this will not happen again.

Behind the scenes, we will look to hold our virtual technology partner to account and ensure that root cause is uncovered and resolved and fixed for next time.  And we need to update our own resiliency planning to ensure we have a simple alternative approach should we see something similar in the future.

But most importantly, we have to make sure that our customer understands that we are committed to delivering a better service next time.  And if we don’t, it remains that it is our fault, not the technology partner we have chosen to supply part of our service.  We don’t pass the buck.  We accept the blame and ensure that we do better next time.  And hope our customer is willing to be part of the next time



  1. great insights Gary – well done for taking the time to think about this
    responsibility is key for us all moving forward from Fragile to Agile….
    well done

    • Thanks Debi – it was quite a shock at the time, but important that to realise that recovering as quickly as possible for our customer is always the most important action we can take.

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