Saturday 5 September 2009

Making a rod for your own back

Pursuing a service standard of "Excellent" is definitely a case of making a rod for your own back

In my business, I strive for a truly excellent standard of service and, inevitably, I do not always achieve it. When I fail, I feel mortified, but (illogically) I also slightly resent it when clients point out how I have failed to achieve the standard I try to set - I feel unfairly treated, in that I know that even my slightly-less-than-excellent standard is better than most solicitors ever achieve, so why am I being criticised for being "better-than-most"?

The answer is that I am not: I am, quite properly, being criticised for not achieving the "best", as that is the standard I have chosen to set: I am not average - I aim to be the best; if I miss that target, I have failed, even if I am still better-than-most.

I today had a glimpse into how it feels from the other side: from the viewpoint of the customer/client. I took my family (this time, with mother-in-law as well) again to the Hoodeners Horse at Great Chart, Ashford, Kent. On the basis of my earlier visits, I promised m-in-law "the best chips ever", etc. For completely understandable reasons relating to seasonal potato varieties, different cooking requirements, etc, the chips today were perfectly good but just not quite truly excellent. As a result, I was disappointed, but it would not be fair to criticise: dealing with the real world (eg: proper potatoes) can never be a uniform experience - and, if it could be, it would not be such a thrill to discover true excellence.

I will keep going back, and keep trying the chips, but will not expect always to have excellent chips - I will be very happy on the occasions when I do.

In a service industry like mine, it should be different: we do not depend so heavily on the quality or type of a raw ingredient that is laregely outside our control; we depend instead on rigorous processes and motivated and well-trained staff. On that basis, we should be able to produce "an excellent chip" every time. In the catering industry, they can do their best, but cannot guarantee results

Andy: Sorry if I appeared to be complaining. I was so impressed by the "world-famous Hoodeners Horse chips" on the first few occasions, that it blinded me to the practical impossibility of always repeating that experience. I will instead be grateful for 99% success rate, and tolerant of the 1% "nearly-but-not-quite-excellent" times - but in my own business, I am still aiming for 100% excellence, as everything should be within my control!!

As always, the beer - St Austell Tribute, for me - and service - thank you, Sally - at the Hoodeners Horse were excellent: everyone came away happy and well-fed and watered


  1. Your blog proves that Abaddon's musings is not only honest but impartial as well.
    In striving to hit the heights and offer a home made chip that tastes like a potatoe and hits the taste buds you have to take comments seriously and yes your right it wont be stupendous everytime but service is improved by feedback.
    Thanks for your honesty and I must say I was happy to have the conversation/twitter out in the open because it proved several things!
    1) We take our customers comments truly seriously.
    2) Its better to discuss and explain than dismiss!
    3) I like to keep my staff on their toes and heels of their hands as well as offbalance!
    Many regards

  2. Of course I'm more interested in discovering whether you met the Hoodeners Meerkat?

  3. I did not meet the Hoodeners Meerkat - has he/she/it yet made a debut apperarance? Or is Andy saving the debut for the Tweet-up on 18 Sept!