Recently, I experienced a company culture that could be described as just barely good enough. A business trip took me to a part of the country that was not well serviced by the airlines I usually fly – so I chose to travel with another airline.
At the gate I learned that my connecting flight was cancelled due to weather. No announcement, the cancellation was just put up on the gate boarding board and the gate agent did nothing to assist anyone. Racing to the flight-rebooking center we find a very, very long line – other flights were also cancelled. This example of just barely good enough customer service was about to deteriorate to shocking.
A supervisor was checking in with the five booking agents at the counter when one of them packed up her things and began to leave. The supervisor followed her down the hall and motioned for her to return. She kept walking away.
As this was transpiring another agent took the opportunity to sneak out unseen by the supervisor, leaving just three agents to deal with a very long line of people waiting to rebook their canceled flights. The remaining agents glanced at one another and with patience and grace they served their customers. After standing in line for an hour and a half I experienced the most amazing service with one of the rebooking agents that stayed. She worked tirelessly to get me to my destination that night.
Anxious to get going and reach our destination, with new tickets in hand we arrive at the new gate. But… as we were lined up to board the place we are informed that the plane is not cleared for takeoff due to storms. They tell us not to leave the area because we will board as soon as we have clearance. At this point the gate agent packs up her things and quietly says she’s going to dinner and she’ll be back before we board. Within the two hours that the agent was at dinner there were no updates, the board still showed the original and incorrect boarding information, and the phone rang… and rang… and rang. An airline employee who was looking for the agent shared what information he could as he was rushed by waiting passengers. We finally boarded 30 minutes after the agent returned from her two-hour dinner break. The waiting passengers remained quite calm and in good spirits, making jokes about the lack of personnel and service.
Finally, physically on the plane, the stewardesses were as crabby as could be. It was a rough flight and no one greeted us as we left the plane. I was grateful and relieved to arrive at my destination, even if it was six hours late. I think that most of the passengers felt the same.
I can’t help but wonder… what a PR difference there could have been for the airlines had the staff been more customer focused. I was astounded to see agents walk out and away from a supervisor in the middle of a significant issue – in front of the customers.
Except for the rebooking agents, not one of the staff I encountered in six hours did anything but the bare minimum to be in service of the customer. I heard from other passengers, “that’s the way they always are.’ Really?! I wonder how they, the staff, are treated. This experience left an impression on me and I will go to great lengths to avoid using that airline in the future.
This is part 1 in the 5-part series on the Culture of Good-Enough by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.Hold your people to a standard of excellence and they hold each other to a standard of excellence. Click To Tweet
Billions of dollars are wasted each year by companies whose leaders and staff compromise standards. Such leaders endanger themselves, their careers and company culture by permitting a “good-enough” mentality. Fortunately, this danger of mediocrity has a remedy.
The good-enough culture plagues an organization in every aspect of its operation, all the way down to the most basic. Some of the more prominent effects are:
- Lack of productivity
- Staff turnover
- Defective products
- Warranty costs
- Safety costs
- Inefficiency and waste
- Dissatisfied customers
- Lost sales
- Shrinking profits
- Poor reputation
As a leader, you experience many unseen problems buried under the details in every department – problems that could be anticipated given your industry. These issues feed on themselves if you and your people turn a blind eye to them.
When organizations fail, it’s not always because they have crashed to the bottom. As a leader, you can contribute to a slow failure simply by allowing mediocrity to set in. When you allow things to be good enough your people are lulled into complacency with a false sense of security. No one is prepared to respond effectively when the bleeding begins, and gradual decline ensues.
Caring about excellence is everything. A truthful leader molds a team that improves communication, timeliness and a thorough review of all difficult issues and circumstances. As a leader, it’s important to be considerate of others. This demonstrates the importance of relationships to success. When you commit to such responsibility it raises the level of accountability within your staff. Hold your people to a standard of excellence and they hold each other to a standard of excellence. Determined leaders foster a group spirit that overcomes challenges that once lead people to disengage.
In the following series of posts, we’ll explore mediocrity in a good-enough culture, how it takes root, and how you, as a leader, can overcome the good-enough syndrome to transform your organization.
For now, think about what it’s like where you work. Are you seeing the effects of a good-enough culture? Is there a laissez-faire attitude? And, think about when you have encountered a good-enough culture? I am interested to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.