Listening Beyond the Words

Our family went out to eat this evening. The tone of the experience we were about to receive was set when I walked in the door, and was thrown off guard by the lack of greeting. The greeter and I stared at each other for a few seconds before she said "Yeah?" I stammered something and got us a table. We waited for 45 minutes for our food, and it arrived cold and soggy. A few minutes later, our waiter came by to ask "How is everything so far this evening?" My reply was the same as most of us would reply in this situation.
"Fine, thanks."
The fact was, I really didn't care about the place enough to get involved in improving it. Nothing was terrible, but almost everything was mediocre. It was easier to put on a smile, walk out the door, and just make a mental note to not come back.
The worst part of this story is: they think they did fine. I told them they did fine. How many customers tell your business that you're doing fine? Can you trust that feedback?
If your customers aren't raving about you, it probably means you're disappointing many of them. Even when they are raving, you've probably still disappointed them somewhere along the way, even if only a little. You're never going to hear about how you can improve unless you passionately seek out that information. You're never going to be given that information unless your customers feel they can safely share it without being hassled, and they will only take the time to share with you if they feel that time and effort is a good investment for them.
I'm very proud of a number of efforts we've been making at Puget Systems to find and listen to this silent feedback. We're learning a lot. We're improving every day, and we are empowered with the knowledge of the dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other ways we know we still need to grow and service our customers better. We like to say that we are passionate about learning from failure at Puget Systems, and we're not just talking about the products we carry. We're talking about ourselves.
What about the mainstream PC industry? They're doing just fine, right!