a his & hers weblog of worlds apart

Take Your Customer To Work Day

A recent group think on transparency led me to this idea for CSR. I’ve had a tough time shaking it since.

The Idea:

– Take your customer to work day (a twist on take your kids to work day)

How It works:

– Invite your customer into your workplace to learn how your business works

– Open your office, back-shop, or factory doors for the day to give your customers a behind the scenes glimpse of your working environment

– Your employees represent your brand for the day

– Customers see for themselves what truly makes your company special

Why It works:

– It’s the ultimate case for accountability and transparency

– Responsible businesses will be rewarded for their good practice; irresponsible competitors will be exposed. Can you imagine the charade some companies would try to pull? False scripting points and employee actors!

Obviously this idea would be difficult to make happen. But if a few influential partners jumped aboard and issued a corporate challenge, I believe it could potentially make a real, positive impact. What do you think? Does anyone spring to mind that might be interested in championing such a crazy idea? Anyone? Bueller? Godin? It’s an idea I’d love to share out.



1. Fairmont’s Shop with The Chef initiative demonstrates the value of a non-traditional employee/ customer interaction. Not surprisingly they have been named a category leader in social responsibility.
2. A search for “take your customer to work” uncovered this rant. I guess I’m not the only one who sees value in the concept.

30 comments on “Take Your Customer To Work Day

  1. liam
    July 7, 2008

    just look what willy wonka’s golden ticket did for his business!

  2. Jennifer Janson
    July 9, 2008

    I love this idea. Maybe it doesn’t need any big companies to get involved…but rather a few small, forward-thinking companies to champion the cause at a grassroots level. Count Six Degrees in!

  3. Geoff
    July 11, 2008

    Linked here from Seth Godin’s blog. I absolutely love the idea. So many companies have this insular approach to customers, that they “wouldn’t understand” or that the real grit of the daily business would just scare them away.

    We all work somewhere, & we all consume. This would help make the business-to-consumer relationship a lot more human-to-human.

  4. jacqueline
    July 11, 2008

    This is fantastic. So much of what is done in the world seems to be behind the scenes, not really understood who is doing it. This would help build better teams – I figure my accountant, pizza shop, post office, etc. are all on my team. Currently they are invisible, but this would make the work they do visible. Nice.

  5. Laura
    July 11, 2008

    I love the idea. My dad ran a sale program in the early 70’s for his “small town” furniture store biz. He would invite his customers to sign up for a special “Alley Sale” – and on a normally “closed for business” night – he would lock the front doors and open the Employee Entrances from the alley to his customers. They were invited in through the back doors only, through the storage areas, through the maze of carpet remanants and deliveries to “meet the crew” – and of course to shop for sales….in the half-lit showroom. Of course this was in the era when he knew his customers by name and they returned generation after generation to purchase their home’s worth of furniture from him. Still, it got so popular that he began sending out tickets for the sale- and people would call in for extras for relatives or neighbors etc.

    It’s definitely all about human-to-human but even in those days when it was much more neighbor serving neighbor – to make the customer feel really part of the process – opening the back doors was a “trust issue” – maybe especially in those days – because – the line was thickly drawn – No Entrance — really meant – no one steps behind the line – and people listened.

  6. Kevin E. Schlabach
    July 11, 2008

    Actually… in the software development world this is a large part of the recent Agile Software Development movement. There is a belief that because software is not tangible and easily described, it is best to involve the customer in the process to the point of being a member of the team!

    I’ve seen it do amazing things in a global 50 company working with hospital staff as the customer and eventual end-user, so I don’t see why it can’t be used other places.

    Imagine how you might pick a restaurant for dinner if you could walk the kitchen first and see how clean it is and what ingredients they use!

  7. Edub
    July 11, 2008

    so I have customers that are internal to the company (i.e. sales) and I think it would be AWESOME to invite them along.

    I can remember going to work with my dad and following him everywhere. When he would explain what he was doing to me I literally asked him “Why” multiple times over the day.

    I know there are certain things we do that I just couldn’t answer that same question if asked 😉

    Would be eye opening for sure (and should be mandatory)!!

  8. Gregory Y
    July 11, 2008

    I would kill (well, not literally. Let’s not get carried away) for an opportunity for an opportunity to co-create product with a potential customer, but so far my offers fall on the deaf ears. I am developing a product for on-line retailers and OEM product managers, but having a hard time getting anybody involved in a process. Any suggestion or advice?

  9. michael : holy cow
    July 12, 2008

    We did this all the time at the printer I worked at. As their magazines were being printed they’d come in, meet the team, meet the press operators and watch the magazine be printed.

    Sometimes that meant stopping the press and making a correction…often times that meant for a much more loyal customer to “their” printer.

    It’s really not hard to do…if you’re doing things right already.

  10. Brad K
    July 12, 2008

    I would think that an end-of-day debriefing would pay off. Provide refreshments, keep it casual. Get overall impressions, recommendations, strong points and weak points – brainstorm rules, with no criticism, and thanks for his time and responses. Then take his paired partner/employee, and find out the same information. Don’t look for sensitive or private information that might have been shared, never leverage insights into the customer’s business to take advantage. But do find out how an outsider thinks about your enterprise.

  11. Deborah Taggart
    July 12, 2008

    my company had an open day for its 75th anniversary

    • Aneisha
      August 18, 2011

      Thanky Thanky for all this good infmotraion!

  12. John Hoff - eVentureBiz
    July 12, 2008

    Boy, this could really backfire if you don’t have your stuff together and severely hurt your business.

    If someone tries this, don’t take the concept lightly as the repercussions of a bad customer experience could start a bad buzz about your company.

    Imagine if Darren Rowse or Seth Godin were your customer in for the day. These guys have BIG influence and if their report came back bad, you might be doing damage control.

    I think if this is something you want to try, form a test committee and give it a few runs before actually implementing it.

    . . . just my 2 cents.

  13. GirlPie
    July 12, 2008

    Great idea, swell comments, but now I want to think of the way to spin if for a solo shop (my consultancy) and my clients (some out of the state/country) — “hey, come watch me think and type!” HA!

    But as a consumer, I’d LOVE to be invited to places I enjoy supporting — good thinking — glad I found your blog via Seth’s link — eager to poke around further.

  14. ulic
    July 12, 2008

    I love this idea, too

  15. Patti
    July 13, 2008

    What about visiting YOUR customer one day – instead of going to sell your customer, ask that guy or gal if you can get a tour of their business and learn ABOUT THEM – because really, in the end, isn’t that what this is all about? Learn what makes your customer tick and then help their business grow.

  16. Karl Hardisty
    July 13, 2008

    I see this as the ultimate litmus test for whether an organisation is sorted. Definitely not to be used as a means for getting feedback for improvements – especially if they’re required on a large scale!

  17. Sampad Swain
    July 14, 2008

    Nice idea.

    I believe there are certain companies which have already started doing the same like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), two major Indian Auto Mfg. companies by roping in customers too visit their shop floor for a weekend visit or so.

    Still the practice is really convincing and proves the point i.e AUTHENTICITY which is so important in recent times.


  18. Gary Sherman
    July 14, 2008

    Cool idea.

    I saw a company who used employee actors.
    On the day of a customer visit, every office was filled with someone to create the illusion of a bigger company. it was the CEO’s idea.
    One thing that the CEO didn’t think through was the effect that it had on the real employees.
    Demoralizing. Unauthentic.
    Especially to those real employees who try to live, breath, and preach authenticity and transparency.
    Its a risk. Should the customers find out – your credibility takes a huge hit.

    I do agree that the truly open, honest, credible, transparent, authentic companies would certainly benefit.

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  24. Caro
    July 24, 2008

    I love the idea, would you help me to make it happen where i work? I would love to try it. Carolina from Officenet (Staples Argentina).

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