Requiring Perfection

The Perfect 10

When I think about the “Perfect 10”, my mind goes back to when I was younger and watching Mary Lou Retton in the 1984 Olympics get a perfect score on the vault to narrowly win the gold medal.  In the modern Olympic games there have been well over 5,000 gymnasts that have participated, yet there have been fewer than 50 perfect scores.  That is fewer than 1%.  

While visiting my old hometown last week, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend who mentioned that he had just accomplished a month where every CX score he received was a 10.  He had a perfect score for the entire month, the first time he’s attained that mark in the year he has been with that company.  

When I mentioned that he should be proud of such an accomplishment, he responded that it was more relief.  He was one of the short list of individuals in the firm that had not achieved the perfect score in the past year and the pressure was on to attain that goal.  

Pressure: Diamonds or Coal

We all know that when carbon is subjected to pressure, it can undergo physical changes. Depending on the pressure, temperature and purity of the carbon you can end up with either a diamond or a lump of coal.  I think most would rather have the diamond, but there is a reason there were only 31 short tons of diamonds produced in 2019 versus 706 million short tons of coal.  A diamond is rare, it requires perfect circumstances, no impurities along with an abundance of pressure and time, then after they are formed they are usually brought closer to the surface through a volcanic explosion.  

That pressure towards perfection can have mixed results.  It is the same way when setting goals surrounding customer experience.  If the goal is simply perfection, you’re certain to get coal as a result.  It is not unattainable, but if you think you can just apply pressure to achieve it, you are forgetting that you need to consider the purity (truly believing in a CX Strategy) and the time needed to achieve the results.  This will ultimately put all the pressure on the delivery team, and that will certainly have an impact on the employee experience.  You may end up with the occasional sparkle, but you’ll usually be left with a lump of coal.

Building Success with Imperfection

In this particular situation, despite the success this month, my friend had already made the decision to find a new role, and felt that many others would probably see themselves out through a revolving door of turnover at this company.  It is a cautionary tale that, even when you think you are doing correctly, you may be overlooking a key element that introduces impurity.

One the other hand, you can actually build a world-class customer experience with imperfection.  Sometimes you will fail the customer, however that failure can be recovered with closed-loop feedback, which can actually improve the relationship between your company and that customer despite the mis-step.  Pressure applied correctly to employees with positive reinforcement and a clear vision can build a culture that revolves around the customer, yet recognizes that it takes collaboration – not competition – to keep the standards at the highest level for the customer.  

If the focus is only on NPS or CSAT, then you are likely missing opportunities to dig for diamonds while you keep harvesting coal.  A diamond takes purity, time and pressure – all in the very precise amounts.  Do it right if you want your CX to shine and sparkle.