By Dr. Tommy Weir, Special to Gulf News
"Why can't my dry-cleaner do that?", I wondered to myself as I was completely surprised by what I found while opening my dry cleaning in Hong Kong.
I was on an overnight trip to Hong Kong that extended into a weeklong round of meetings in different cities across China. While the extension of the trip was exciting, it left me with a small problem — I didn't have enough clothes with me.
I had packed very light thinking it was only an overnight trip. All I had were the clothes that I flew in (including a blazer), a suit for the meeting and an extra white dress shirt, just in case I spilt something. You always need to be prepared, which I was except for the possibility of an overnight trip becoming a weeklong.
It was clear that I couldn't wear the same suit day in and out without it being cleaned, so it was time to call the hotel operator to help me get my clothes cleaned and pressed. This is when my small problem turned into a dilemma. As I sat in the chair in my room to call the operator, catching the arm of the chair, my pocket ripped at the top and bottom.
While it wasn't a huge rip, it would've been noticeable if I took my suit coat off in any meeting.
This may not have been a huge concern for you, but I'm rather particular about my appearance. I knew that a tear — even if it wasn't noticeable — would bug me. I had to make an instant decision: send my suit to the cleaners as planned or skip the dry-cleaners and go straight to the mall and buy a new suit?
Instead of making it a zero-sum decision, both seemed to be the best route to a win-win. I sent my suit to the dry-cleaners and sprinted off to the mall located right below my hotel.
While I hoped they'd have my favourite brand of clothing — Ralph Lauren — they didn't. The thought of shopping someplace else was really tough on me. I wrestled in my mind with whether I should buy a suit that I probably wouldn't ever wear after this trip since I'm very loyal to Ralph Lauren. Or should I just suck it up and wear the suit with the tear on the trouser pocket?
The tear in the trousers would really bug me. And yet the mall below the hotel didn't have a Ralph Lauren store.
I made the wise decision and saved the money knowing I'd never wear the suit again. But I was still frustrated knowing my trousers were ripped. My hoped for win-win was looking like a lose-lose.
The next morning when I opened the bamboo box that contained my pressing came a surprise that erased my frustration. They repaired the ripped pocket. Without even bringing the tear to their attention, they spotted it and took action. That's service!
But it left me wondering, "Why doesn't my dry cleaner do that?"
For a decade, I've used the same dry cleaner — one of Dubai's best — and only half of the time do they even repair a broken button. Each time I get my clothes back I wonder if they were pressed correctly and am relieved when I find that they are. Why is it that the cleaner in Hong Kong delighted me and mine here barely keeps my business?
Proactivity! In Hong Kong they acted proactively instead of relying on procedures. Your business procedures — how to do the work — should be the bare minimum not the goal. The procedure should be achieved 100 per cent of the time.
When achieving the procedure becomes your goal, you'll leave many customers disappointed as the error margin has an inherent chance of missing the target. And the deviation from the norm is on the negative side if you don't conduct the procedure accurately.
Logically, when you set a goal, you know there will be times you miss it. And in this case when you miss it, you fall below the standard level of acceptance.
Yet when achieving the procedure is the minimum rather than the goal, the emphasis changes to exceeding it. Then if you miss the goal of exceeding the target, at least you'll deliver what the customer expects. The error margin becomes how many times do you exceed the target instead of missing it.
This experience left me wondering, "Why don't most people take proactive action?"
The writer is a CEO coach and author of "Leadership Dubai Style". Contact him at email@example.com
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