Extraordinary Is Your Best Defense and Offense

by Mark Sanborn

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The price for sloppiness and mediocrity is higher today than it has ever been. The marketplace doesn’t reward ordinary. If customers can get better service or value elsewhere, they’ll abandon the inferior for the superior without a second thought to loyalty. You would think that this would have companies clamouring for new and inventive ways to keep customers happy. Yet, I am repeatedly astounded by the number of opportunities for optimal customer service that are completely bypassed or purposefully ignored. (See also Why Customer Service is so Bad at Most Places). Companies are typically delivering such lackluster experiences, products and services that it directly hurts their bottom line.

It is often said that valleys help us appreciate the high points in life. While that may be true, too many people seem to accept the valley as a permanent residence. Instead, we should always aim for extraordinary every time. Why? Because, ultimately, it is the best offense and the best defense for both your company and you, professionally. Here’s why — from a statistical perspective — you should be paying attention to this every time:

The Organizational Level
This Zappos case study presents a great example of how “extraordinary” in both internal and external company interactions can create a positive economic result. As Jeff Lin, former CFO of Zappos, points out, “service is a by-product of culture,” so by fostering a culture that everyone wanted to be a part of, the company drove down its mployee turnover rate to 39 percent (at the time, 150 percent was the turnover rate for typical call centers). Zappos’ prices were not (and still are not) lower than that of their competition; however, their service was and is so extraordinary that their repeat customers account for 75 percent of their business. Why would you leave a company that is taking care of you, be it on the employment or the customer service side?

The Personal Level
When Mark Murphy tracked the results of more than 20,000 new hires over time, within 18 months, 46 percent of those hires failed. Believe it or not, the predominant reason for failure (more than 89 percent of the time) had absolutely nothing to do with skill and everything to do with attitude. You can have all the professional acumen in the world, but if you can’t deliver an extraordinary experience to those around you  —regardless of where you are in the company — odds are you won’t succeed.

If you are aiming to build a profitable, long-term company, or to poise yourself for personal professional success, my ultimate advice is to aim for the extraordinary every single day. Your best offense is to start with a positive attitude or culture. And your defense? Deliver an extraordinary experience as best as you can. Either way you slice it, you can’t go wrong.

*This blog originally appeared on MarkSanborn.com.


Mark SanbornMark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Sanborn is an international bestselling author and noted authority on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Follow Mark on Twitter @Mark_Sanborn.