Like most, I was saddened by the recent passing of Steve Jobs.
Few people have ever been as associated with the company they ran and the products it produced. If you liked Apple products, you pretty much liked the dude in the mock-turtleneck showing that stuff off.
Like many who write and speak about business, I've cited and quoted Jobs over the years. One of my favorite lines of his has been, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them."
Most of the devices we communicate with and entertain ourselves with each day were made or strongly influenced by Apple. And none were the result of a committee meeting or customer survey.
Reading one of numerous Steve Jobs bios recently published reminded me of what I find most inspiring about his story. While Jobs was an extremely wealthy man, most folks wouldn't know that the majority of his wealth eventually came from his holdings in Pixar (Disney) and not Apple.
The guy most associated with an American iconic brand since Henry Ford eventually derived his greatest financial success while he was exiled from the company he created.
Jobs bought a struggling Pixar primarily for its interesting technology, not its business potential. It almost (some say should have) failed several times.
He even unsuccessfully tried to sell a then-struggling Pixar to Microsoft. That was pre-Buzz and Woody. (Reminder: Not getting something you think you want right now may turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to you – as long as you don't quit.)
Jobs had more than his share of personal and professional failures. There were periods in the not-all-that-distant past in which he was an outcast of the tech industry. And then the guy written-off and even mocked by some of his peers saved, rebuilt, and ran the company that went on to become the most valuable technology company in the world.
A person who had so publicly failed became one of the most respected creators, visionaries, and businessmen in American history.
The people who accomplish the most in their lives are seldom folks with "undefeated records". They experience setbacks large and small. But they don't quit. They learn. They adjust. They move forward.
And in the end, they sometimes change the world.
What are you going to change this week?
We recently had to have our satellite dish and our home DVR's changed. After coming off the roof, and as he was finishing programming the DVR's, the installer asked if I would be interested in having something connected to my home's WiFi network to do something or other.
It sounded more for the dish company's benefit than mine.
I told him I really wasn't interested in giving anyone access to our WiFi. Then I joked that I'd tell anyone who called later that he did an outstanding job explaining and promoting that feature.
He looked up with a smile and said, "Man… you know how this game is played, huh?" He explained that, yes, I would be getting an automated phone call later to gauge my customer satisfaction. And pushing that "service" (that almost nobody wants if he fully explains it) is something he gets scored on.
He shared that any rating below 10 on a 1 to 10 scale, on any question, was considered unacceptable and reflected on employee reviews.
Yes, he gets critiqued and questioned for any 9's.
I laughed and said, "Man, I feel your pain. So, do you normally have this conversation with every customer you do work for?"
He chuckled and said, "Yes sir. All of our installers ask customers for straight 10's. And we have some guys we all know are bad technicians who still get perfect scores. It's a joke. But my manager only cares that you get 10's… period."
He was a nice kid and did a good enough job that I would have given him favorable marks anyway. He did, however, spend a lot of time while in our home talking on his company two-way radio with another tech about personal subjects.
That may have actually been a useful piece of feedback for a future coaching session. But when I got a call later, I took about 30 seconds to give 10's on every question - as I'd been asked to do.
I got the feeling that the company really wasn't looking to learn anything anyway. In the end, the company gets glowing (and almost meaningless) reports. But I'm sure they make members of management happy.
Management in this company is, intentionally or not, making employees more concerned in coercing customer responses than in actually giving great service. And it doesn't reflect well on either.
High service scores are nice. They're even better when they're legitimate.
Make sure yours are.