Did we learn from the crisis: LOL

Recently, I witnessed how a young couple was serviced in their efforts to buy a new house and to take out a mortgage. The quality of service that was offered failed dramatically at all touch points.

It is clear that both the real estate agency and the financial services consultancy firm in this case didn't learn anything from the financial crisis. They demonstrated the old modus operandi in which greed and quick wins prevailed over the interest of their customers.

I mentioned earlier, e.g. here, that the financial crises was in essence a crisis of values. Surviving such a crisis can be purifying, assuming that an organization is willing and capable of learning. 

The two companies in this case are obviously still in their first competence phase. They were totally unaware of their incompetence and perhaps even proud of their level of performance.

The four stages of competence (or learning)

The couple can of course file a complaint about the level of service that was offered, for instance at the supervising authority for the financial markets (in this case the AFM). They certainly have plenty to complain about. The examples they gave me, ranged from not reading the information provided by the customer to asking multiple times for the same documents, forgetting important data, neglecting due dates, relaying information without clarifying ambiguity in conditions and urging the customer to accept an unrealistic offer. 

Fortunately enough was the young couple mature enough to stay focused on their own interest and withstand the pressure to make deals that were unfavorable for them.

Perhaps a complaint will create awareness at the service providers of the skills and attitudes they are lacking. One does wonder however how long market imperfections will allow such companies to survive. On the long run their lack of customer empathy will be fatal. 


Becoming truly customer-centric is the only way to sway with the waves of change (see source above). These service providers need to replace inside-out thinking by outside-in thinking. This is a gargantuan task and effort for companies that are stuck in old ways of behavior. If they succeed, they have really learned something from the crisis of values and may have a future.

Frankly, I don't believe that the two companies in this case will be able to make that transition. The young couple, on the other hand, has learned some valuable lessons. I am quite confident that they will benefit from this experience in their personal and professional life. 

Statue by Tobias Rehberger