Archive for November, 2011

Pressure Point #1: The strange phenomenon of the customer doing the work

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

I was having trouble placing an order for printer cartridges the other day.  Actually, it appeared the company was having trouble.  Jonathan sent me an email:  “Send us a reminder email tomorrow morning and we’ll place the order.” 


This reminded me of my regular cab driver from time to time saying, “Ok, Tom, great, I’ll pick you up in the morning.  Can you give me a reminder call about a half-hour before?” 


I hope you’re thinking what I’m thinking, because otherwise I’m crazy.  In a pressure-packed, 24/7 workplace world, I’m busy, too.  I’m the customer, ain’t I?  Why are my service providers asking me to do THEIR work?   (By the way, do any of you feel like you’re getting delegated to when you are the customer? )

It put me in mind of the messages I send my customers.  From time to time, I’m swamped.  Consultants particularly know the “feast or famine” cycle.  During the feast times, I feel pressured to get everything done just like all of you.  In the midst of frenzy, do I subtly transfer things on my customers? 

I’m choosing to focus in this direction – what do my two experiences tell us about working in a frenzied world – rather than the justifiable rants we could drum up about the two service providers.  Think about it:  my customers and friends are telling me all the time about too much work, the impact it’s having on their home lives, the emails they haven’t answered, and so on.    How does the pressure influence us?  My sister concluded after dashing through the train station recently that “Men don’t help women with heavy bags and they don’t hold doors. They stample over you to get wherever they have to first.”  (Stample, I believe, is a new word [thanks, Nan] born out of frustration, but it’s a brilliant combination, don’t you think, of stampede and trample that really captures the way of the world these days, doesn’t it?) 

So when there’s a crisis or too much work or stampling, I guess it’s not so surprising that people are trying to delegate.  

But as a customer, oooh, I can’t stand being delegated to. 

That’s why I’m thinking about how I (and we) might be treating our customers in these pressure-packed times.  And lo and behold, it comes to me:  In the midst of a very busy year this year, a customer came to mind.  Was I a little too quick to make a decision, a little too quick to move on?  It seemed reasonable at the time, but when I noticed this strange phenomenon of being asked to do my service providers’ work, I’m wondering what my own customer’s experience was of me.  Did I value her in the way I want to?  Or did I, as my sister says, metaphorically “stample over her to get where I needed to go first?” 

It’s likely that most of you are juggling piles, emails, home responsibilities, deadlines, and more.  Take a moment to think about your customers.  Have you stampled any of them?  Certainly, there are limits and boundaries.  I’m talking about how you dealt with the pressure, and how you dealt with them.  One of the casualties of this pressurized world might be your customer.  You can set a limit, but you can also negotiate with them, care for them, and value them. 

Are you experiencing increased workload and pressure to perform in this overloaded workplace?   Maybe the strange phenomenon of the customer doing the work isn’t so strange in such an environment.  Just don’t let that customer be yours.

If you would like to see my approach to helping leaders and organizations with resilience and dealing wtih pressure in the workplace, go to