Journaling: Constituents as Customers

Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North

Smart customer service is essential to smart business. Three of four business leaders “report a direct link between their customer service and business performance.” That’s courtesy of the 2022 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report.

I have a decidedly un-scientific way of making snap judgments about the value a business places on customer service. Which spaces in its parking lot are closest to the entrance – Visitors or Employees? Logic suggests that customer convenience comes first, right?

This notion came to mind when one of our readers expressed concern about the rescheduling of his town’s 7 p.m. public work sessions to 6 p.m. He commutes from New York City, so those 60 minutes compromise his getting to the meetings on time to observe how the sausage is made. 


Why the time rollback? The reader says he was told 6 p.m. considers the convenience of town hall staff, presumably so they don’t have to hang around as long after the workday for the meeting to start, and they get home that much sooner.  

OK, fine. The question is whether the convenience of constituents also was taken into consideration. Is town hall’s foremost obligation to its staff or is the staff’s priority to serve constituents? We’re not saying those have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s worth a conversation if one disadvantages the other.  

A saving grace of sorts is that in these days of televised local government meetings, you can tune in from home, so you can have your 6 p.m. meeting and eat too. But wait a minute. There’s more. In this case, the work sessions have not been televised. It would seem there’s no better reason to start televising those meetings ASAP than because of the one-hour-earlier meeting time that could curtail in-person attendance.  


Is the customer always right? A quaint notion that, as well as an absurd one. It’s not hard to understand, for example, why elected officials consider it fair treatment of their collective constituency to limit public remarks at town meetings to three minutes per constituent. More people get to say their piece and the bloviators get to practice being pithy instead of pissy.

On the other hand, what if the august body running the town brings in a friendly subject matter expert to put a shine on legislation it is jonesing to push through, but does not give equal time to an expert to speak against that same legislation? How customer- … I mean constituent-friendly is that? 

By the way, that ZenDesk Report reveals that 3 of 5 customers say they would go to a direct competitor after one bad experience. So, if you don’t like how your public servants are treating you, the answer is clear – pick yourself up and move to the next town over.  

That’ll show ‘em who’s boss.  


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About the Author: Bruce Apar