The government is one of everyone’s favorite punching bags. It really doesn’t matter where on the political spectrum you fall. The government is the target of an angry rant and/or much headshaking at some point. Today’s topic is a great example of that and it’s instructive to business as well. No, I haven’t reconsidered my self-imposed ban on politics in this space. This has nothing to do with politics and a lot to do with things such as management, customer service, and accountability.
The town in which I live just installed new curbs on Main Street. The new curbs, which meet federal and state standards, are made of granite for their durability (lots of salt and snow plows on the roads here in New England). They also have really sharp edges which, as documented in this article from a local blog shows, have been shredding tires. No, driving on the curb isn’t normal here, but parallel parking is, and apparently there have been many cases of the curbs cutting down tires as the tires bump into them. The government’s response?
The granite curbs used on Main Street are the same material and construction that is used throughout Connecticut and meets state and federal specifications. Because it is cut stone it does have a sharper edge than asphalt or concrete. It is a chosen material because of it hardness and resilience to salt. It can stand up to New England winters with routine snow plowing and application of salt. The curb is not intended to be driven upon and will not damage a tire on routine contact.
In other words, not my problem. We’re following the rules and despite the fact that the rules have caused the citizens (read customers) whom we serve to suffer flat tires, it’s your fault. Quit hitting the curb. Rather than thinking about how to round the edges and to solve the problem, the government official is thinking about how to blame the victim.
You might be shaking your head about this (as you should) but business does the same thing. Rather than fixing customer problems we look to shift blame. We do things such as ask customers to sign lengthy agreements written in legalese in which they waive rights. We impose hidden fees which are only clearly disclosed when someone complains. I can’t wait to hear the Downtown Merchants Association (a local business group), who will lose business as customers choose other places to park (and shop) weigh in on the topic of how the nicer new curbs have “helped” make downtown more attractive to business.
I happen to believe there is a valuable role for government to play in our lives (so do you every time you call a cop or report a fire or drive on a road). I don’t think there is a place for any business – government included – to ignore its customers nor to leave obvious problems unsolved. You?