Tailoring Performance for Your Customers

Last week, my wife started giving me a hard time about my clothes. I had a trip to Europe coming up, and the official verdict from her was that my suits were simply “not enough”. Figuring I’d better do as I was told, I decided it was time to shop around for a new suit. Hoping to impress my wife, I wound up buying the best of the best.

But it is the trip to the tailor that I want to talk about. I went on a Thursday to have some small alterations made. He looked at me and said my suit would be ready in a week. I was stunned- my flight was in three days and I never expected it would take so long. I tried to bargain with the guy, to get him to push my suit to the front of the line, but I had no luck. The tailor waved his hand around the store and said: “look, I have many more like you and these things take time.”

While he took my measurements, I was really disappointed. I paid and left, wondering how I was going to get another suit in time for my flight. About a minute after I left the store, the tailor called me and said: “it will be ready tomorrow morning.”

It had all been a joke!

That made my day, but it also made me think. This tailor has been in the service business for years. He has had lots of time to develop his approach to service, and leaving his store that day, I felt that I needed to learn something from my experience.

I hate the model of setting low expectations and delivering higher. I prefer to have the expectations and deliverables align so there are no surprises.

And then it occurred to me: Performance.

I tried to remember the last time I was amazed by performance in any way. Have you ever said, “Wow, those IT guys have so many servers to manage, so many troubles, zillions of transactions to run… How do they provide me with a millisecond response time?”

Only once have I had that thought; right after my first ever Google search. I remember being amazed at how fast the results came in, especially since my PC can’t search that fast for a file stored on the hard drive. Since then, I can’t recall any surprises similar to my experience with the tailor.

I think it’s time for us to start surprising our customers again.