Names Matter

I don’t know about you but I have had an aversion to certain words for a long time. One word, or maybe two depending on how you spell it, at the top of my list is “End-User“. If ever there was a phrase that typified the eighties, it is End-User.  My thesis is that we can’t effectively get to Customer Centricity, one of ING‘s strategic themes, while we continue to use eighties terms like this one.

What’s wrong with it?

Well first of it is situational. An End-User is obviously at the end of something, a process or application that starts somewhere else. It is the anathema of any form of customer centricity.

Secondly it is a hangover from mainframe technologies. It represents a 3270 view of the world (for the older technologists amongst us) a world of green screens receiving orders and data from a centralized technology.

Thirdly it is perimiterized, locked down. The idea can persist with IT and Security Teams (incorrectly as it happens) that an End-user can be classified, managed, controlled and therefore subjugated by the smart IT folk.

Lastly, it is arrogant. Where else do we see the term “users”, ah yes, drug addicts. The terminology inhibits our ability to think of these people as customers with their own preferences and demands.

Luckily these days, I can actually act on my dislikes. Recently we agreed within ING that for our Future of Workplace and Unified Communications strategies we will now use the word Business Consumer. We chose this word to distinguish from our Customers. (I also don’t subscribe to a concept of internal and external customers by the way) Do people using their mobile to check their bank accounts see themselves as business consumers? Probably not but then they probably don’t see themselves as end-users either.

What the name change does do for us however is allow us in technology services to free our mind to look at the customer experience in new ways. And as Robert Porter Lynch points out “all innovation comes from people who think differently — that is, one perspective meets another, and something new can be born.”

How much innovation can be inspired by a name change – I’ll let you know.

One Response to “Names Matter”
  1. Sara says:

    Hi Alan,

    I never spent much time thinking about the term end-user but I agree its crude. As always I find your point of view refreshing and enlightening. Hope all is well.
    Best Regards
    Sara Conklin from NYC

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