Everywhere we look, there is evidence that average is kidnapping excellence.
- You deal with the hassle of driving to a mall, finding the illusive parking space, and then having to shop in stores that are overcrowded and understaffed. Average taking over? It’s time to shop online.
- When you call your cable/internet/satellite provider for help or information, you get several prompts to reach the right department. Then comes the message you dread hearing, “All of our agents are busy assisting other customers. Your call is important to us and will be answered in the order it was received.” If they’re that busy, they need to hire more operators and stop being average.
- You walk into a restaurant and the host or hostess takes your name and says they will seat you 20 minutes. However, you notice that the restaurant is only half full. Why can’t they seat you now? The standard answer, “We’re short on wait staff and in the kitchen.” Their poor managing is costing you time and inconvenience. Yep, average is lurking.
- Want to see a movie? Great. You go to the show and have to wait in line to be over-charged for movie and snacks and sit through 20 minutes or more of coming attractions before seeing your movie. Any wonder why many of us wait until the movie is available online, DVD, or on-demand? No excellence here either.
This is why, as consumers, we are getting more and more frustrated with clerks, operators, and wait staff at the companies we do business with? Waiting on hold and in endless lines begs the question: Is the customer experience dead?
Many in the industries I mentioned are flirting with bankruptcy, extinction, or irrelevance—striving to be no better than the competition. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. It happens because companies are allowing their excellence to get kidnapped by average. Oh, most companies will fight their average performance at first, but then it just becomes easier to start accepting average as their excellence. They cut staff and expenses, making the customer experience even worse trying to justify the bottom line.
We, the consumers, are complicit in spreading average. Not speaking up when poor service happens. When asked if everything is okay, our standard answer is fine. Then running to the Internet to do more and more of our business. That way we don’t have to interact with people—or be mistreated or unappreciated.
But what are we losing by not interacting with each other? We are social creatures who need and thrive on human contact. We learn more, understand better, and enjoy life when interacting with each other. Or, we can just get a comfortable recliner, a supply of hot pockets, cocoon ourselves with the lights out, and become hermits in front of the computer.
ATD is in the people business, and while I firmly believe in the Internet and technology to enhance our lives, we can’t let it consume us. We must do everything we can to bring excellence back to companies. Bottom line: Let’s train our people to create great customer experiences. Let’s build organizational cultures that banish average and embrace excellence. Let’s take the time to enhance the human experience AND grow our businesses.