Thursday, February 15, 2018

Customer Responsibility

In an earlier post, I expressed a rather sour perspective on the level of irresponsibility shown by customers and the manner in which their failures are invariably blamed on the firms that attempt to serve them.   But this begged the question: what is the source of this responsibility.

In researching the concept, the general conclusion seems to be that responsibility is a character trait that encompasses a few different skills and practices.   In general …
  • Goal Selection – Responsible individuals are aware of their goals and has prioritized them appropriately.
  • Activity Selection – Responsible individuals consider whether engagement in an activity will achieve their desired outcomes
  • Self-Discipline – Responsible individuals show dedication and tenacity in the completion of activities that progressively achieve their goals
Returning to the earlier material, the dissatisfaction that results when a person has selected the wrong product to achieve his goals is a dysfunction of the activity-selection task and the dissatisfaction that results when a person fails to use the product in a correct manner is either activity selection (when he does entirely the wrong thing) or self-discipline (when he does the correct thing, but not for long enough to ensure the goal has been achieved).   

But still, I am led to the same conclusion: while proper marketing can inform a potential consumer of the benefit of the product and proper documentation can inform him of the correct way to use it, neither of them does any good if they are ignored by a customer who feels that the tasks of product selection and use are someone else’s responsibility – and not his own.

So while I don’t have the solution to the problem, I do have a little more insight into the nature of the problem.   I wouldn’t go so far as to say that responsibility is not the cause (as it certainly is), but I do believe it is not the root cause.   The root cause is a matter of attentiveness – simply paying attention to what is important.   

Perhaps the roots could be traced further, to the problem of discretion – as one can be very attentive to the wrong things – but this becomes a chicken-or-egg argument: is a person inattentive because they are indiscreet, or indiscreet because they are inattentive?   Anyway, I do not believe discretion to be a problem that firms can address in the market, though they can work on the attentiveness of the consumer.  

Still, I see little prospect for a solution here.   Ignorant people can be quite stubborn in their ignorance, refusing to give attention even when great effort has been undertaken to bring things to their attention.   And so, I’m still stuck of the fatalistic notion that there are “good” customers and “bad” ones, and the firm can only seek those who are made “good” by other means.   So I’m not entirely satisfied yet.

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