CEO Blog



Hobson's Choice

Anne Marie Forsyth, CEO, CCA
05/05/2017

 

Did you vote in this week’s local elections? Are you planning to vote in the general election? I ask because all the indicators are that we are becoming disillusioned with politics (or politicians?) thus our appetite for engagement is diminishing.
 
Some countries make voting compulsory like Australia, but there is mixed opinion as to whether this actually aids democracy. 
 
'None of the above' is often cited as a desirable option allowing voters to express a view that none of the candidates are worthy of election; this is achieved in practice by soiled voting papers.
 
'They don't do what they say they are going to do anyway so what's the point'. 'They are all the same and in it for themselves' are the more cynical views expressed about the lack of commitment to manifestos and variation of real policy choices.
 
The phrase Hobson's choice; in other words, one may "take it or leave it" is said to have originated with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in his stall nearest to the door or taking none at all.
 
Ironically when we have so much choice in all aspects of our lives, we can still feel cheated about the lack of authentic choice offered to express our views about customer service. Many of us feel that it's simply not worth the bother as our concerns won't be actioned. (Source: Ipsos Mori) 
 
Standing in a lengthy security queue at the airport recently I got chatting to an elderly gentleman. He was clearly not a frequent traveller and very nervous about the process. Removing his belt caused alarm as did his bag disappearing into the 'further check' stream. It transpired that the suntan lotion he had been assured would be fine to take through was too large and he had an issue with medication. It was the last straw in what had been an unpleasant experience for him and when we arrived at the customer feedback smiley faces he gave a wry smile; with a rather rude gesture he commented that there wasn't one angry enough for his view!  
 
A progressive lack of engagement is a dangerous situation for political parties and companies alike. Failing to truly listen and interpret how we as consumers feel leads to assumptions being made from a narrow opinion base, leading to a lack of trust which is difficult to recover from. 
 
There are loads of ways to listen these days, actively and passively and so there's no shortage of insight. At the end of the day the old saying, 'we have two ears and one mouth' is probably as useful today as when it was first voiced.
 
Happy listening!