The Downside of Perfection

September 25, 2011

1:00 pm

How many times have you stopped and thought about the perfection of inhaled air?  Maybe after running for miles as you struggle to breathe, you recognize the beauty of oxygen that always surrounds you.  How many of us appreciate how wonderful it is simply to walk?  When things go wrong, when we’ve broken a leg, when walking becomes painful and no longer routine, you might remember that there was a time when walking was effortless. When you recover, you think to yourself, “I’ll never take that for granted again. You mean it. You’re thankful, until walking without pain has once again become routine.  Then you forget to be grateful that your legs perform flawlessly.

Customers are like that.  When companies serve them through flawless execution, they are like the air we breathe…. colorless, odorless, completely invisible until it is gone.  When we execute with perfection, customers don’t recognize we exist.  When we screw up with a customer, we can take one of two paths:  1) never regain their confidence, or 2) recover so effusively as to gain their undying loyalty.

You know what I mean; we all have that one vendor that pulled out all the stops to delight us after dropping the ball.  We remember these companies.  We tell the stories of how well they recovered from disaster.  We revere them, recommend them, and continue to buy from them. We sing songs about them.

Yet, flawless execution often goes unnoticed. If we inhaled visible green air and exhaled visible red air, would we appreciate oxygen? If once a day we went two minutes with no air, would we relish each breath?

Should we make it part of our strategy to screw up and nail the recovery so even the Russian judge rates us a 10?  Is this the key to client retention and customer loyalty?  It might work, and yet it seems to be a high-risk, expensive path to market leadership.  What we must do is recognizes that just being perfect isn’t enough.  We need to be perfect and visible and recognized for our perfection.  It’s not good enough just to be outstanding; we must be perceived as the definition of perfection by our customers.  So think about your customers and devise methods that will let them know how well you perform for them.  Think about how you can make the invisible of frictionless performance visible.

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Glen Hellman (@glehel), is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and works for venture capitalists as a turn-around specialist. He is the Chief Entrepreneureator at Driven Forward LLC, frequently muses on his blog, Forward Thinking, and works with entrepreneurs to help them figure out what to do and get them to do it.

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