What can a battery charger can teach you about your business practices?


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“The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise of ordinary qualities. These may for the most part be summed up in these two–common sense and perseverance.” – Owen Feltham

I have this universal battery charger for the battery in my digital camera. Because it is “universal,” like every other universal thing I have owned (universal remote controls, universal wrenches, etc.) it has never really worked “right.” Oh, it worked okay, but because it is so universal, I have always had to fenagle the battery to sit just the right way to ensure it received a charge; if it was tweaked just a little to one side or the other, it would not make contact and take a charge properly.

I have sometimes resorted to putting it on the floor with some weighted object on it (say a book or a jar of pennies) to make sure the battery would stay in place. I have wedged matchbooks and little tiny scraps of wood that I could find to keep the battery tightly against the contacts. Time after time, it always seemed that I would have to find some other way to make sure the battery stayed put while it charged.

By now, I can hear many of you saying, “Geez, Steve, just go get another one, or at least break down and buy the right charger for the battery.” We’ve moved beyond that. Now, it is a matter of principle, and I am determined to ensure that this “universal” battery charger lives up to its name.

Perseverance: thy name is Steve.

So this last time that I attempted to charge the battery, it would not even begin to charge, much less stay in place to maintain contact with the charger. No matter how I twisted, turned, or pushed down on it, it would not charge.

Then, I noticed something. (As with all great lessons, there is the “great revelation”.)

Looking more closely at the charger contacts, they appeared to be unusually compressed and recessed into the charger body, which looked like it was the cause of preventing the battery from making good contact. I simply reached in and over-extended the springy contacts to ensure they could touch the battery, popped the battery in and, voila! Instant charge! No twisting, weighting, or wedging to get the battery to charge.

Common sense: thy name is NOT Steve.  (Well of course it sounds obvious to you, because I just explained the whole thing…)

In the course of this solution, it occurred to me that many times we practice this same process, (albeit on a different scale of urgency and implication) with our customer systems and business processes in general. We’ll keep attempting to tweak this, or jimmy-rig that to keep everything moving, when in fact it may be as simple as taking a moment to stop and look at the basics: what are we trying to achieve, and what is the best, most efficient way to get there consistently (perseverance)? How can we prevent ourselves from ending up in this place in the future (common sense)?

Perhaps, if the revelation of perseverance and common sense hits you in relation to your work systems, you may happily find that the solution is as simple as adjusting a couple of contacts on your battery charger.

“A foolish man tells a woman to stop talking, but a wise man tells her that her mouth is extremely beautiful when her lips are closed.” – Erica Jong

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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