Customer Resolution 2017 – Perfect Experiences


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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!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Great post, Joseph! I have also worked with Horst and I am proud to say he wrote cover endorsements for two of my books. He is an amazing person.

    I stayed at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta over the Christmas holidays earlier this month. When I called to follow-up on my hotel reservations, I said to the front desk associate, “I have a unique request.” Before I could state my request he responded, “Sir, we can do anything!” How many frontline employees on the planet would start an interaction with the attitude of, “The answer is ‘yes,’ what is your question?” That is the pursuit of perfection, not very good or even excellent!

  2. Horst Schulze and Vince Lombardi are, indeed, both exemplars of focus, discipline, performance, commitment, consistency, and leadership. Lombardi, particularly, understood the real value each person in an enterprise brings to an emotionally-based superior customer experience. He has been quoted as saying: “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” and “Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.”

    It’s important to understand that attaining and sustaining optimum experience delivery depends on enterprise culture, team and individual employee investment, and flexible, customer-focused processes. The pursuit of positive, institutionally great stakeholder (customer and employee) experience never ends:

  3. Joseph. What a great article to take into the new year. Just remember, each of your customers defines perfection in her own way!

    No need to wish you a prosperous New Year because if you follow your own advice you will surely achieve prosperity.

  4. What’s curious about mandating perfection is the dissonance between “thinking small or setting uninspiring aspirations,” and what it takes to actually approach perfection in service delivery . . . which is . . . thinking small and setting uninspiring aspirations.

    After all, what’s the pursuit of perfection without prescribing endless, often-tedious tweaking, adjusting, fine tuning, incremental change?

    Not every company can survive with Apple/Steve Jobs’ obsession with perfection. How do you recommend instituting ‘perfect experiences’ without thinking small?

  5. Andrew, fascinating distinction and query. I think perfection is an endless and incremental quest. Excellence is a subjective standard by which someone could say they are “done” or “mission accomplished.” The journey versus destination issue is what may cause a limiting of aspiration or a ceiling on accomplishment. Your thoughts?

  6. Sam, I love your add on the “perception of perfection” through the customer lens. I raise a glass to you in the New Year!

  7. Chip, great to hear from you and great story. Yes Horst says the “answer is yes” now what is the question. It is a great mindset for service professionalism.

  8. Michael, I think your insights are on par with both Horst and Coach Lombardi. Your level of engagement and thought leadership are always valued.


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