Acceptable is NOT Acceptable!

How would you like to have your business described as acceptable – is there anything worse?

It’s so… okay, average, fine, alright, and worryingly neutral. It’s a feeling that does not excite or is ever likely to retain a customer let alone make them an advocate for your business.

I’ve been working with an award-winning business which missed out on the medals this year due to an acceptable rating of their customer service – the owner was furious, not for missing out but for having their business described as “acceptable”.

Their initial reaction questioned the objectivity of the “mystery shopper”, failing perhaps to remember that the majority of high street shoppers and many B2B purchasers are extremely subjective when it comes to making a buying decision. After a bad night’s sleep, they reconsidered the feedback in the context of what could help them improve, the customer perception of their business – because as we know, perception is FACT.

I can’t remember ever working in a business, or on a board or in a team or with individuals who just wanted to do an acceptable job – can you?

When have you ever: appointed someone with an attitude of acceptable being acceptable; joined a business that didn’t want to be good at what it did; or started a business with the mission of being acceptable?

In my experience successful businesses, organisations, and individuals are those that believe that “Acceptable is NOT Acceptable”.

Yet so many businesses today, seem to accept the acceptable –  poor service, poor quality, late deliveries, out of stocks, unannounced door step drops, substitute products, standing room only, untrained staff and the unacceptable on hold loop message … “we are receiving particularly high levels of calls at the moment, your call is important to us and we will get to you as soon as possible or you could just push-off to our website blah blah”.

10 months ago, my wife and I made a trip to our local kitchen appliance retailer, following a number of excellent recommendations from satisfied neighbours. Sadly, the local retailer was unable to confirm the price or delivery of the appliances we selected from the international brand Neff; allegedly due to Brexit and Covid (really??). The new (higher) price followed a week later but the delivery date remained an unknown – we decided to postpone our purchase for 3 months to see if the situation improved in the new year. The stock situation did not improve, the lead time was now 10-16 weeks and the price had gone up again … so we paid the deposit to secure the price and decided to wait.

On week 12, I contacted the retailer for an update to be told that they “cannot give me any schedule or time scale … as there was a delay due to a worldwide component shortage for the displays in the oven and microwave combi which come from Ukraine so unfortunately their hands are tied”.

10 months on and what frustrated me most was the lack of proactive communication, the whiff of BS when they did communicate and the attitude “it’s not our fault” – acceptable you may think given the impact of the Brexit decision (6 years ago?), Covid 19 (2 years ago?) and I’m not totally convinced the latest delay is down to the war in Ukraine –  because Neff’s website reassuringly says “we have production sites in 38 countries, so we are not as constricted as some and can manage production a little easier.” I think both these businesses were guilty of accepting the acceptable.

Whilst writing this, I picked up on a comment made by a frustrated owner of a B2C business after a particularly difficult day“remember the days after the pandemic and everyone was patient and wouldn’t mind how long things took? Those days are long gone it seems!!”  

And they are long gone, with lockdowns, shortages, and “Putinflation”, people now want immediate gratification – they want to pick, pay, and take their purchase away, along with memories of a hassle-free enjoyable transaction.

What can you do to make your business stand out in the landscape of acceptability?

How can you not only retain but attract new customers?

What do you have to do to make your customers advocates for your business?

For those who are in non-customer facing roles, the same applies for you, as you look to stand out, have colleagues say good things about you, attract a promotion, and earn a salary increase.

Transitioning perceptions from neutral to positive doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s about embedding a culture where “acceptable is not acceptable”, which starts very logically by ensuring you and your people are “Brilliant at the Basics”.

How highly would you score your business in the following 10 everyday basics?

1. Not at all 2. Not very 3. Acceptable 4. Very highly 5. Extremely highly

  1. Establishing a rapport
  2. Listening
  3. Asking relevant questions
  4. Understanding requirements
  5. Providing relevant and requested information
  6. Being transparent and honest about situations
  7. Managing expectations
  8. Taking complaints seriously
  9. Giving due attention to the detail
  10. And being human not a bot!

And the basics are just that BASIC, so if you struggle doing them don’t be surprised if you lose customers

I recently selected a beautiful, hand-picked hotel that I’ve used many times for meetings and dinners, to celebrate my wedding anniversary, ensuring my contact at the hotel knew it was a personal occasion not a business gathering. As we drove home after a wonderful meal with a lovely personal touch or two, I mused on what had been slightly disappointing – having to find our own way from the bar to the restaurant as our seating time came and went, having to share a menu because they had run out, attempting to clear the table whilst Mrs D was still eating, the noise setting the tables for breakfast and the wait to get the bill – basics! My musings being interrupted by my wife’s voice “don’t worry about it, the food was fabulous but if you want the service you have to go to a restaurant not a hotel because that’s where restaurants excel – it’s their business”. Note-to-self, remember to book a restaurant for next year’s anniversary!

The last score you want as a business, organisation or individual is acceptable it’s just NOT acceptable!

Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Company Culture, Engagement, Customer Experience, Brand Values, Brand Expectations
%d bloggers like this: