Is your customer service color-blind?

Written by on August 19, 2013

I just got back from my annual eye test, and I got a free lesson in customer service and marketing as a bonus. But first, let us take a few steps back. My family must really love my eye, because I seem to have inherited the favorite quirks of every single member. My mom gave me her myopia, and my dad’s side one-upped her with incredibly dry eyes. And somewhere up my genetic ladder, an ancient forefather graciously let me carry his astigmatic legacy forward. Point is, I’m usually not a guy to be taken by surprise when I bump into an eye exam. Only this time, I had an extra round of color-blindness tests added in, and I failed with flying colors. I can now officially, irreversibly and unequivocally not see the color red. And I have a certificate to prove it.

I know – what is the big deal, right? Tell that to my Arts teacher back in fourth grade who almost failed me because I couldn’t identify maroon. I stayed back and memorised colors on the palette; an exercise similar to polishing doorknobs, only duller. I had a pretty good feeling God had turned out the lights when he was designing my color department. But without a doctor’s certificate to back me up, my innocent pleas of color-i-cap were always met with “But can you see this shirt?” (No, I can see an ID10T though), and “Do you just see blacks and whites?” (2 decades of education and I still can’t think of an appropriate response to that).

It’s terrible, it’s annoying, and most of all it’s frustrating that most people just don’t get it.

True, it is not as bad as losing a limb, or speech, or even your hair. But people who can see red can never understand what it feels like to live in a red-less world. And the people who can’t, can never understand what red looks like. The existence of 75 shades in a color I cannot even perceive, is useless to me.

Which brings me to an interesting point in marketing and customer service. As the creator of your software, service or business, you understand your problem domain better than anyone else. You wake up to the issues you work with, have them sitting around at lunch, and most often take them with you to bed. But do your customers get it too? Sure, there are those who see and feel your business the way you do. But what about the rest?

What about the red-blind segment of your business? Are you building features and capabilities, writing out solutions and passing tips and tricks in just the colors you see? Or does your customer service strategy remember to weigh in the red-blind others?

The only way my doctor could see the world the way I see it was by using a series of polarised lenses that blocked out the evil reds. And until she did, she couldn’t empathise with me. The same goes for your business, support and customer experience. Every now and then, take up your polarised lenses and see your product from your customer’s eyes. Unless you see the world the way they do, your customer service is just a red dot on an Ishihara plate.

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  • Ah, Vikram! You are taking your additional eye-burden very well. I can only empathize with you. Indeed, you have taken this bit of shocking news and turned it into something good for your customers and those who serve customers.

    Often, we are cautioned not to have a “myopic” viewpoint. Now we can heed your words cautioning us to not be “red-blind” and to watch out for places where our own customers might suffer from red-blindness. Fresh thoughts!

    • qvikr

      Thanks Vernessa. The thing is, you can get over a myopic viewpoint in your customer service by just broadening your view and looking at the larger scheme of things. But you’ll need to actually jump the boat and see the world from your customer’s pov to understand the colors they just can’t see.

      Also, the eye burden isn’t that big a deal, seriously. Now I can proudly plead ignorance everytime I go clothes shopping with the wife 🙂

  • Peace

    I get it now, no wonder some customers dont really give the expected response. Truly inspiring. Will begin to look thru the lenses to weigh the ‘red-blind’ customers

  • Xavier Smith

    Great article that I think, on some level, most customer-care professionals knew but never really thought about, since we can get caught in the nuances of just making sure the customer in front of us is happy. This article made me take notice of the efficiency of both my customer-care and marketing approaches as a solopreneur. I think I can identify already some wasteful areas. Now it’s time to get to resolving them.
    Thank you for this.