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The Danger of the Single Story

Culture / Leadership

Whenever customer service comes up, the adage “the customer is always right” isn’t far behind. While the truth of that statement is debatable, there’s another take on it that should always be true: “our intentions with our customers should always be right.”

In short, our perspective influences our perception. No matter what we do, whether reading a novel or talking to a friend, every story and conversation contains multiple narratives. This is the perfect example of there being two sides to every story: there’s what you yourself bring to it, and then there’s what the other party brings. The notion of competing narratives is especially relevant in the area of customer service.

As an author who writes about the struggles of narratives, Chimamanda Adichie used her TED conference talk about the Danger of the Single Story to discuss how we are prone to leaving out the details that might matter because we misunderstand what is important. As a real-world example, this would be the equivalent of a customer coming in to Rocky Mountain Air Solutions and asking us for a certain product and then leaving, only to go home and discover what we had given them was the wrong product for what they needed. Similarly, it would be like having a customer tell us that they are taking their business elsewhere because of price and us taking that assertion at face value. Instead of believing that price is all they wanted, we should dig deeper to understand it’s simply easier to say price because it deflects confrontation and discomfort.

The challenge for every company, then, is to explore the various narratives to complete the best and most thorough picture of the competing perspectives. It comes down to the ability to listen, understand, and communicate. At the end of the day, we all just want to be understood. It is the responsibility of the company to make sure the customer knows we understand.

As a reflection of our value proposition to be Faster, Better, and Different, Rocky Mountain Air Solutions strives for nothing less than partnership with our customers. If we want to embody all of those traits to deliver Flawless Dependability, we must work every single day at listening to the narrative so that it doesn’t contain just our perspective. Partnership is about having the conversations, sometimes difficult ones, speaking up when we don’t understand, and working to be part of the solution. No matter what line of service you’re in, this is a strong reminder to avoid falling into the trap of the Single Story.

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