I am proud to say that Horst Shultze, the founder of the modern-day Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, has been a mentor.
One day, I was asking Horst about a client of mine that was struggling to engage customers. As I presented the challenge to Horst, I explained the efforts the company’s leaders had exerted to, “improve the quality of their customer experience so that most customers had less pain during interactions”.
Horst, in his charming yet forceful clarity replied, “That is exactly your shared problem. Who in the world wants to follow you or that leadership team if your aspiration is so timid. Who wants to only remove some of the pain, some of the time, for some of those they serve?”
Over the years, Horst has had to remind me of the consequences of thinking small or setting uninspiring aspirations. He continues to challenge the organizations he leads, and protégés like me, to seek the “perfect customer experience for every customer every time” and set “perfection” as the expectation for every service professional.
In the past, words like “perfection” were unnerving to me. I used to believe that the pursuit of perfection was not only unrealistic but demoralizing. Who wants to be exhorted to be perfect, when perfection can’t be achieved? In my mind, why should anyone seek the impossible, when aspiring to lofty heights like “excellence” or “world-class” could be sufficient to improve performance? From Horst’s perspective, “perfection” is the only game worth playing. It is what drives him each and every day.
Interestingly enough it is by chasing perfection that we achieve more. The great American football coach, Vince Lombardi, put it this way, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” I extrapolate that to mean that chasing excellence might lead to mediocrity.
Let me give you an example of some rationale for setting perfection and not excellence as your service standard. Let’s assume you serve 100 customers a day and that “excellent” or “world-class” companies satisfy 90% of them. Here’s the question – which 10% of your customers are you willing to dissatisfy?
In 2017, why not set a new standard for experience delivery? How about not settling for 90% satisfaction level but “perfect” experiences – flawless and caring ones which are delivered to every customer, every time – NO EXCUSES!
In essence, my wish for you and your customers in 2017 is in keeping with the words of American humorist and writer, Mark Twain, who reminds us all:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”
Explore what perfection looks like for your customers, dream that such perfection will occur, and discover ways to deliver it every time!