Monday, May 02, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** Plan C

“Plan C”
By Gil C. Schmidt

We’ve all heard about “Plan B,” which is what we do when “Plan A” fails. Some cynics say we live our lives in “Plan B” and it’s hard to argue against that thought. It seems impossible to make all or even most of our “Plan A”s come together the way we want them to.

Many businesses lack a “Plan B.” Oh, they say they have a back-up plan for when things go wrong, but when the time comes to execute it, it’s more “improvisation” than “improvement.” When Plan A fails—and it does—you see blank looks, pursed lips, shoulder-shrugging, buck-passing and stuttering actions that let you know “we didn’t think this would happen so we didn’t prepare.”

Some businesses, the smarter ones, have a polished “Plan B” in place. When the inevitable error creeps up, the Plan springs into action a well-coordinated ballet begins. Your problem is tended to with the efficiency of a Swiss clock…and with about as much feeling. Although you are grateful for having the problem fixed, you are left with the feeling that it was too neat, too efficient, too easy to have been great service. Instead of feeling cared for, you feel used.

That’s where “Plan C” comes in. “Plan C” is all about Caring, of making sure that as your procedures and methods are improved, you never lose sight of the fact that Caring for your Customer is the heart of great service. Only the best businesses have a permanent “Plan C.”

In my teens, my eyesight was extremely weak. I was legally blind without glasses, and even with them, my vision was never better than 20/40. After years of sports, the worst finally happened: my glasses were broken. I ordered a new pair and the day I was supposed to pick them up, I was told the order had been mis-handled and I still had a ten day wait. (This was long before modern, “one-hour” optometry.)

I was given a discount, a voucher for a free eye exam and a case for my “ten days away” glasses. But what made me their customer for years was the care the attendant took to clean my broken glasses and make a better repair so they would last a little longer and not look so goofy. And when the glasses arrived, they were delivered to my home by the same attendant.

“Plan C” comes from the heart and aims at the heart. It takes into account that customers appreciate being taken care of as persons, not cogs in a service machine. “Plan C” is almost certainly “improvisation,” but one aimed at the true “improvement” that’s possible when things have gone wrong.


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