Good and great: Choices that shape customer experience


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Perhaps you know the phrase, “Good is the enemy of great“.

Popularized in recent years by Jim Collins, the phrase suggests that satisfaction with just being good keeps us from achieving really great things.

And taken as a touchstone for guiding customer experience, this can easily show up within the vision and call to action for customer-centricity of some organization.

Guess what?

Great is also the enemy of good enough!

That’s right; sometimes good enough is well, good enough.

Somewhere someone reading this is rolling his or her eyes right now. Don’t we say, “good enough for government work“, as a way of referring to work of limited quality?

Great and good enough can each be the right measure of what is needed, depending on the situation. And different stakeholders often land on opposite ends of the issue.

Consider this situation:

The R&D department produces both product and process innovation. They support the operations and commercial divisions of the same company who, in turn, work directly with customers.

R&D, by nature looks to the future and in this company represents a response to ‘the innovator’s dilemma‘, creating the next generation of products that no customer is directly asking for at this time.

The operations and commercial divisions, who are by nature very present focused, look to R&D to tweak products and engage their scientific talents toward tangible process innovation to which their customers resonate.

But R&D time is a fixed resource and therein sets the stage for the fight between great and good enough:

An R&D manager recently told me, “the last 20% of the research takes as long as the first 80%. Our scientists and engineers don’t stay engaged unless they can work on that last 20%.” Can you see how ‘great’ is the motto underlying their expectations?

A commercial manager from the same firm had different view: “in the time they want to spend on perfecting those projects, we could be working on client-facing needs. They are wasting our company time“. Can you see how ‘good enough’ is the motto underlying his expectations of the R&D group?

The answer isn’t to side with ‘great’ nor is it to side with ‘good enough’. The answer comes from asking these questions:

• “When and where do we need to be great?”
• “What do we give up in the pursuit of being great in this particular way?”
• “What does good enough allow us to also focus upon?”
• “How and when might good enough not actually be good enough for the aspirations we have?”

As for my client, most likely they will end up with a shorter list of strategic projects for which the added 20% of research time is protected. Perhaps they and their line counterparts will discover how flexible resourcing allows more timely support of immediate customer opportunities and sustained focus on long-term projects. Perhaps they will together learn how to balance great with good enough.

It’s great customer service when a bank teller or check out agent strikes up a conversation with the customer in front of them, inquires about their other needs, and take on a promotional role for the business.

But when there is a long line of other customers impatiently waiting to check out and get on with their day, then a pleasant demeanor while efficiently moving the customer along is good enough customer service. And if I’m at the back of the line, I think it’s great customer service!

Where have you seem companies balance ‘great’ with ‘good enough’ to maintain the right level of customer experience?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Sokol
A psychologist with an eye for the ways organizational dynamics make it possible or impossible to delight customers, I see the world from the eyes of customers, employees and leaders who strive to transform customer experience.


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