Years ago, the story goes, when people travelled in Pullman rail­way sleeping cars, a passenger found a bed bug in his berth. He wrote a letter to George M. Pullman, president of Pullman’s Palace Car Company, informing him of this unhappy fact. By return, he received the following:

‘The company has never heard of such a thing and as a result of your experience, all the sleeping cars are being pulled off the line and fumigated. The Pullman’s Palace Car Company is committed to providing its customers with the highest level of service, and it will spare no expense in meeting that goal. Thank you for writing and if you ever have a similar problem, or any problem, do not hesitate to write to me again.’

Enclosed with this letter, by accident, was the passenger’s original letter to Pullman, across the bottom of which the president had written a note to his secretary: ‘Send this S.O.B. the standard bedbug letter!’

It has to be said; many of our organizations treat customer complaints like this. They are fantastically internally focused with many customer-facing employees acting as though customers are an unwarranted intrusion into their daily affairs, and are clearly not aware of how serious an offence this really is. Even today, we see this process in action. Letter after letter being sent out from customer service departments of large organizations in response to a steady stream of complaints from customers, mostly about how the organization ...

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