Walt Disney was a perfectionist. He was not going to settle for mediocre work from his imagineers. Because he knew the work so well, Disney was aware of the upper limits. Getting near perfect results was challenging for his staff, but that was the expectation that everyone had to meet.
I’m reminded of a story regarding Apple’s Steve Jobs. While working on a project dear to the technology icon, Jobs asked a team member the following question: “Is this the absolute best work you can do?” The engineer replied, “I guess I can probably do better.” Without reviewing the work, Jobs replied, “Before bringing anything else to me, make sure that it’s your absolute best work.”
Performing at an optimum level requires attention to detail. You must avoid settling for just good enough. Your customers know when you are going through the motions and interested mostly in getting them out of your hair.
Paying the Water Bill
I recently called the local water company to set up an auto payment process. After spending more than a half-hour on its website, I was unable to locate the online form. A few minutes later I located the customer support telephone number, and eventually had a live person on the other end of the phone after surviving the 20-minute hold period.
Customer service agent, Linda, was courteous and professional.
Me: Hi, Linda! I would like to pay my water bill.
Linda: Sure. I can help you with that.
Me: Great! You know … I really prefer paying this utility online and not having to send checks, or paying by credit card. It doesn’t take long to do that, but having an auto-pay process is much better for me.
Linda: You’re right. This is much easier. More and more customers are taking advantage of this feature.
Me: I would like to add myself to this list. I’m here in front on my computer. Where do I find the online form?
Linda: Good question! You’re not going to find it online. We need to mail it to you.
Me: You mean … like snail mail? Like the US Post Office? Are they still in business? Ha!
Linda: Yeah. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capability to enroll online. I’m not sure why, but this feature is not available.
Me: Yikes! It’s so much easier to do it online. I think we can even pay traffic tickets on the web. Not sure, though. I always adhere to posted speed limits! [Joking!]
Linda: I guess we’re not there yet. Many customers complain about it. I can send you the paperwork right away.
Me: Ok, Linda. I haven’t checked my mail in a few days. I guess I now have a reason to do it.
Linda: Thank you for calling.
I wonder how Disney or Jobs would handle this issue. How was it long before they automated the process? I’m sure Disney would “Plus It” in some way. Not only could the customer pay the water bill, but she would also have the option to purchase related items, such as a sprinkler system. This might sound funny, but creative people come up with innovative products and services.
Leaders must avoid settling for bare minimum results. The potential for long-term success increases in proportion to the level that you satisfy both the immediate and future needs of the customer.