Support theatre provides the appearance of supporting customers when in fact it is just treating customers poorly based on a management system that disrespects customers. It is a similar idea to security theatre that has become so popular for government in the USA for the last 10 years.
Dilbert does a good job of illustrating “support theatre” in this webcast:
I have had the exact experience Dilbert does of tech support refusing to think about the actual symptoms of the problem and insisting on following some script and wasting my time – repeatedly. This is not some accident. Management has designed systems with the attitude that customer’s time doesn’t matter.
Companies that practices support theatre are usually very focused on cutting the company’s cost and not “wasting” the companies time fixing the problems they create for customers or even helping customers put on “band-aids” to cope with the injuries the company has inflicted on the customer. Those companies also don’t learn from their failures to improve and stop future customers from suffering the consequences of their poor processes.
It is painful to interact with such companies. I find that most large companies I am forced to interact with are deeply into support theatre and only very superficially concerned with customers. It is a shame that the type of customer focus that those interested in management improvement have been advocating for decades is ignored by so many companies today.
If you care about your customers and want to build an organization that prospers by delighting customers go to the customer (user) gemba. Focus on how to improve the customer experience. You likely will have many easy opportunities to improve how things operate since the experience for customers today is often so bad.
Related: Making Life Difficult for Customers – Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple – Customer Service is Important (2006) – Simple Customer Care Strategy: Communicate – Use Urls, Don’t Use Click x, Then Click y, Then Click z Instructions – How to protect yourself from your credit card company – Verizon Provides Lousy Service = Dog Bites Man (2008) – Is Poor Service the Industry Standard? (2006) – Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card