Very old joke: A man walks down a dark city street one night. As he approaches a lone street light, he notices another man on his hands and knees looking for something on the pavement.
“What are you doing?” The first man asks. “I’m looking for my wallet,” says the second.
The first man scans the brightly lit pavement seeing no sign of a wallet. “I don’t see any wallet. Are you sure you lost it here?”
“Oh no,” said the second. I think I lost it up where the street is really dark.”
“Why are you looking for it here?” Asked the first man.j
“Because it’s brightly lit here.” said the second.
This is called “The harder right versus the easier wrong.” It’s what many businesses do when they consider new ideas that impact the customer service experience. For example, in a recent post I wrote that Target Department Stores, according to Return Customer, had changed its merchandise return policies to require a receipt. I’m betting that the chain did it in order to minimize fraudulent returns. The bean counters can measure how much money they save by implementing the policy, but they can’t measure how much business they lose because they alienate regular customers who only occasionally return merchandise.
Mark, over at Business Is Professional, has a great post advocating that more businesses should use appointments to increase their business. But I can already hear the whining, “What about the customers who break those appointments?”
If that’s all that’s preventing you from implementing that policy, then like the man looking for his wallet, you’re focusing on the wrong area. Yes, there will be a percentage of customers who break their appointments. But how much more business will you attract by implementing the policy?
Many times in business people focus on solving a problem (fraudulent returns) but the solution (requring a receipt) creates a new problem (alienating many loyal customers). In fact, only a small percentage of customers abuse the system. Yet the rest of us have to pay the price. Or, actually we don’t, we shop somewhere else.
It’s the same with scheduling appointments. Focus on the overwhelming majority of customers who don’t abuse the system. Cater to their needs, not the one percenters.