By Mario Persona
Quality should be like reason. Something human beings have by nature, and animals don’t. But we treat quality as an additional service delivered to the customer. Like in the story about two friends who ordered two whiskies. “In a clean glass!”, remarked one of them. Back with the two glasses on his tray, the waiter asked: “Who asked for a clean glass?”.
Quality is a must. It must be native in a business or product. But we often forget this. I confess I wrote many texts saying our solution “reduces costs, optimizes processes and increases profitability”. “You are doing nothing more than you should”, could reply a client. It is obvious. No one would buy something to increase costs, disorganize processes and reduce profitability. Notwithstanding, we advertise the obvious we are advertised with. Thinking this is a quality differential.
Food is produced with “selected ingredients”. Transportation companies offer “speed and safety”. Air travel companies announce “comfort and in time flights”. While politicians promise “honesty”. As an instinct we adopt this kind of speech to show characteristics that should be a natural part of the product. Things that should never be a plus.
Quality is not a differential. To surprise, yes. But surprising with the unexpected. Something that freezes the client in time and space for a fraction of eternity. Mouth wide open, astonished, surprised. When placed before a totally unexpected situation. Something his brain had not processed before. My father used to cause this in gas stations, when he asked: “Do you sell used gas?”
Of course, I am not talking about making jokes with clients, but about breaking barriers by surprising him or her. Softening his heart and breaking up his will. A friend stopped in a red light in Sao Paulo city and saw a man opening the door and sitting by his side. The man asked my friend to take him to some address. By a coincidence, my friend was going near that place, and did not say a word. “Hey, this is not a taxi!”, said the passenger finding out his mistake. My friend had to talk a lot to convince him to stay in the car because he would take him to that place.
The true quality is a surprise. It makes the client feel he is in debt. Just as if he had received for more than he had paid for. Or he had not. One of our businesses is a local Internet service provider for about 4 thousand customers. The other day someone called our support, thinking it was HIS Internet provider. It was not. Even knowing he was a customer from our competitor, our support helped the man in learning how to use the Internet. The next day we had got a new client.
Quality is something we learn in marriage. While there is novelty, everything goes well. After we discover everything, there is nothing else to discover. Then we start to cover. When this happens, there are only two ways to face an aged relationship. One is to attend an archeology course, to maintain a crescent interest for the husband or wife. The other is to invest in surprise.
It might be simple attitudes, like my wife’s reaction when I almost smashed her finger with the car’s electric window. A closed it without knowing that the most wonderful wife I had for the last twenty and two years had her hand between the glass and the metal. She took her hand off just in time. I prepared myself for the usual complains, in Italian aria like sound. But the unexpected brought a surprise. It was as if a rug was pulled from under my feet. As if someone had asked if I had second hand gas to sell.
Instead of the complain, the sweetest voice in the world just said: “Honey, don’t do it again, ok?”. I did not smash her finger, but she had melted my heart. With a smoothness and kindness that worked better than one thousand complains. It was a SURPRISE. Now, every time I close a window in my car, I can hear the voice that is forever recorded in my memory: “Honey, don’t do it again, ok?”.
We were surprised to discover that Mario Persona reads Seattle24x7 all the way from his home country of Brazil. It is our privilege to bring you this universal perspective from beyond our soggy borders.