“You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
There is a lot of talk about entitlement today. Frequently, the discussion focuses on generational differences – with the younger generations being pegged as lazy and entitled while older generations are hard-working. Entitlement is defined as ‘the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)’. If asked, most people would likely state that a sense of entitlement is bad; a problem with our culture or society that will have long-reaching effects that we are only just beginning to experience. When we have customers who appear to have this mentality, it is a natural reaction to dismiss them and ignore their expectations. But is this the correct response?
The problem with labeling people as entitled is that it provides a convenient excuse for providing poor service. When we assume that our customers are being unreasonable and expecting service they do not deserve, we are being closed-minded and run the risk of becoming inflexible. If it is true that the next generation of consumers are going to expect a new level of service – does the fact that this level of service has not been traditionally provided mean that we should ignore their feelings and ‘perceived’ needs? Does it matter whether that service is deserved or earned?
Entitlement, after all, is merely high expectations. Over time, customers have developed their expectations about appropriate levels of service. In my previous post, “Focus on Expectations”, I discuss the need to concentrate our attention on customer expectations. We cannot know the level of service that our customers expect unless we consider and evaluate what they actually want and consider equitable. Through the course of that evaluation, if we find that customers have greater expectations than we consider reasonable, our opinion of those expectations does not change the customer’s opposing perception. To the customer, they are not entitled – they are fair.
“Entitlement – The feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).”
So let’s say, for a moment, that we are truly in the middle of a cultural shift toward an entitlement mentality. The question then becomes, ‘how do we adapt to the new normal’? From a business perspective, our opinions on this modern customer mindset are irrelevant. The customers will give their business to those brands that are able to meet their personal expectations. Our thoughts about whether the customer deserves this level of attention do not factor into their decision to utilize our services.
We always hear talk about going the extra mile for the customer. Does it make a difference if that extra mile is the distance that the customer was already anticipating? Certainly, from a relative standpoint there is a difference. The customer with ‘reasonable’ expectations will be delighted by the exceptional service and will most likely reward that service with positive promotion or loyalty. The ‘entitled’ customer will have his needs minimally satisfied with the same level of service and will likely – at the most – refrain from open negativity toward the brand.
Working in health care, I hear comments that would most likely be considered entitled on a regular basis. Patients will occasionally express their genuine disbelief that a doctor would take a week off for vacation -and have the audacity to do so when that patient is sick! I frequently hear claims such as:
“I pay for insurance, so I should be able to see my doctor whenever I want!”
What this statement says to me is:
- My time is more valuable the my doctor’s. He/she should give up his/her time whenever I require that time. The doctor is my servant.
- My time is more valuable than that of other patients. If my doctor needs to take time away from a different patient in order to spend that time with me than that is appropriate.
This is a patient who wants what they want when they want it, and no amount of discussion is going to change their expectations. While I can certainly rationalize encounters of this type by blaming the patient for poor upbringing or just being a jerk, at what point do these types of statements represent a shift in societal expectations around how our services are delivered? This is a difficult question to answer, but one that should constantly be on our minds in our interactions with customers. From a societal perspective it may not make sense to provide customers with services they could and should do for themselves, from a business perspective that makes all the cents in the world.
What are your thoughts on the entitlement mentality and how it affects our customer interactions? Leave a comment below!