Imagine for a moment that a new coffee shop is built in your neighborhood. From your perspective, it seems perfect. You love coffee; you drive by the coffee shop’s future location nearly every day, and the new store is going to feature a drive-thru.
Could it get any better?
Over the next several months, you watch the coffee shop’s construction and look forward to your first cup of coffee from the new establishment. One day, a banner appears in the front of the building announcing that the store will be “Open next Monday at 6 a.m.”
At that moment, you realize that you have an important meeting next Monday morning which requires you to drive by that very location. It’s as if the coffee shop is opening just to meet your needs. You make a mental note to get out the door a few minutes early on Monday to grab your first cup of joe from your new favorite place.
Monday morning arrives and you leave your house ten minutes early allowing enough time to swing by and grab a hot cup of coffee. As you pull into the parking lot, something seems wrong. The place is dark and the parking lot is empty. Hoping against hope, you roll up to the drive-thru only to find a written note taped to the menu board. It reads, “Opening delayed until Wednesday. We hope to see you then.”
You’re disappointed but you figure that they didn’t mean to get it wrong, something must have happened to throw off the grand opening plan. You drive off disappointed but commit to making it back later in the week.
On Wednesday, you are back in the parking lot and everything appears to be up and running. Lights on, people milling about, cars waiting in the drive-thru line. “Now we’re talking,” you say to yourself.
When it’s your turn to order, the speaker emits a pleasant voice who warmly greets you and asks to take your order. You keep it simple asking for a medium cup of black coffee. The employee tells you that your order comes to 79 cents and directs you to pull up to the first window. “Wow, that’s a bargain you think to yourself. They may not have opened on time, but they redeemed themselves with their pricing.” You pull around to the window and are greeted with a “That will be $3.58 please.” Your pleasure turns to frustration.
“$3.58? When I ordered you said that it would be 79 cents. How did the price jump nearly three dollars in less than two minutes,” you bark.
The person at the window is embarrassed and explains that the new computer system is having some trouble and that it gave her the wrong amount when she entered your order.
Your frustration turns to empathy and your demeanor softens. She’s just doing her job you remind yourself. As the employee swipes your credit, the aroma of fresh coffee wafts through the open window. Your nose takes notice, and you are quickly reminded that coffee is coming soon. All will be ok.
You pull forward to the second window, grab your cup, put it into the drink holder, and pull away. A minute or two later, you reach over to take a sip and find that your hot coffee is hot chocolate. You hit a new level of frustration. Not only did they fail to open on time, but they also misquoted the cost of the product, and then gave you the wrong item.
At that moment you vow that the new coffee shop is no longer your favorite new place. You vow to tell anyone who will listen about the bad service you received. Throughout the next couple of weeks, that’s exactly what you do. Nearly every time you share the story, those who have visited the place express a similar sentiment. They too were frustrated by inaccurate service.
Six months later, you drive by the place and a new banner is out front that read, “Out of business”.
I share this story to make a point. Granted you may not run a coffee shop; however, you have likely set expectations and failed at times to deliver at some point. In this coffee shop story, your expectations were set and missed three times – when the store would open, the price quote, and the actual product. It’s a great illustration of the problem we run into when we deliver inaccurate work.
Accuracy is about more than just getting it right or wrong. It’s about building trust with our customers. When we provide them information about a product, service, or schedule and realize that what the information was shared was inaccurate, we are taking a withdrawal from our customer’s bank of trust. When that account goes bankrupt, they go elsewhere.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.