SmoothSpan Blog

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There’s Two Problems With Perfect

Posted by Bob Warfield on January 18, 2008

Seth Godin writes about The Problem With Perfect:

The only time we notice them is when they screw up.

He’s right, of course.  And he goes on to elaborate:

As the quality of things go up, and competition increases, it’s so easy to sell people on perfect. But perfect rarely leads to great word of mouth, merely because expectations are so hard to meet.

Keep that in mind, BTW, the next time you’re looking at a market leader being acquired.  If the market leader was perfect, is there any more room for them to get better?  Or is it more likely they get worse in the wake of the acquisition making it look like a bad idea?

I’ll add a second problem with perfect that comes in the area of customer service.  The ISO 9000 and Six Sigma camps believe highly in perfection.  Any imperfection that is detected results in an immediate campaign to change the system so that particular kind of imperfection can never happen again.  But here is the problem:  customer service is defined by doing something for the customer.  If the service is perfect, there is no customer service.  In short, the customer never gets to see you exert an inordinate amount of service to make them happy after a comparatively minor failing.  This latter experience is the stuff of which great customer service word of mouth is made. 

Think about it: if you never have an opportunity for customer service to spring into action and impress the customer, all you have is perfect.  That’s not bad, but it’s not going to get you talked about.

In the end, for all kinds of user experiences, it’s important to remember that we are relative-sensing, not absolute-sensing.  We are sensitive to change and rapidly become oblivious to fixed levels even if they’re outstandingly good fixed levels.

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