“Measure twice, cut once.”
A handy piece of carpentry (and life) advice passed to me by my grandfather – Joseph Williams. This, along with – “Plan for the worst, hope for the best” – have come in handy when building marketing programs.
In my experience, most mistakes and problems with marketing programs aren’t made by “poor execution” but rather by poor planning.
It is easy to blame front-line employees, or the sales team for “not doing it right.” However, if we do our jobs properly, we greatly eliminate the chance of someone “not doing it right.”
The book “Universal Principles of Design“ lists three types of mistakes. Errors of:
(2) Decision, and
With these categories as a guide, we may foresee where things could go wrong during our planning and building. This allows us to “measure twice” before we cut our plan.
(1) Perception Error
Causes: Incomplete or ambiguous feedback.
While there are many ways to discuss perception, let me talk about a customer service challenge.
An interesting situation happens when you create guides and rules to drive high-quality customer service. People wanting to do their jobs properly follow the rules black and white – no gray.
So “greet every customer with a warm smile and a happy, genuine ‘Hello’” inevitably becomes a script. This crashes and burns the first time a crabby, scowling customer approaches this employee.
This “genuine” greeting plays as “smart-ass” in this situation.
• Improve situational awareness.
• Provide clear and distinctive feedback.
• Track and display historical system behaviors.
This was a real problem at Starbucks Coffee. So the Training teams focused on “Situational Service” instead. If applied properly -similar to the solutions above suggest – the employee would assess the ’situation’ of the customer. While a warm, friendly greeting is always appropriate, having it dialed up to 11 – especially when the customer has yet to have their first cup of coffee for the day – could be deadly.
Baristas even learned that the normally happy customer couldn’t be expected to be happy every day. Instead, you had to look for feedback from the customer and meet them where they were.
While I’m using a service example, these same rules apply in every case of perception error.
(2) Decision Error
Stress, decision biases, and over confidence.
We make decisions under two conditions. We either…
a) have the luxury of time and the ability to deliberate and weigh pros and cons, or
b) find timing and decisions need to be made immediately.
In either situation we can’t allow stress, personal bias, or ego to get in the way of making the proper choices.
• Minimize information and environmental noise.
• Use checklists and decision trees.
• Train on error recovery and troubleshooting.
Focus on facts. And then, consider only important and relevant facts needed for making that decision. If possible, block out distractions – even if only for a few minutes – to allow clear thinking. Create checklists and decision-making trees. The next time your PR team is facing a crisis, it’ll be much easier to “know what to do next” when an emergency plan is as simple as following a recipe.
(3) Knowledge Error
Causes: Lack of knowledge and poor communication.
Knowledge errors are probably the most common. There is only so much information a person can process and store in their brain. Working in marketing at Starbucks we would rely on the in-store barista to implement marketing program tactics. However, aside from recalling the specifics of a promotion, they also had to remember the new drink recipes for the promotional drinks, the specifics on the new merchandise items sold during that time period. All this in addition to the daily hand-crafting quality drinks, greeting customers with a smile and keeping the stores clean. No easy task.
• Use memory and decision aids.
• Standardize naming and operational conventions.
• Train using case studies and simulations.
There is only so much we can process at a time. Instead of relying on memory, provide reference tools and memory aids.
One of the neatest memory aids I had ever seen was something the Gap clothing store implemented years ago. For their employees, they printed a full-color, small, spiral-bound notepad (like the kind you would write your grade school assignments in) with the new clothing items in it. When a customer had a question, the employee would flip to the right page and have the details right in front of them.
We borrowed this tactic at Starbucks during a Christmastime promotion, and again during a brewing equipment sale – back when Starbucks sold a full line of home coffee brewing equipment.
Why bother with the stress of remembering all the facts and details when it can be accessed quickly and correctly with the right tools?
What tools have you found helpful to prevent perception, decision, or knowledge errors? How do you ‘measure twice and cut once?’
The three mistake types, along with their causes and solutions were lifted directly from the book “Universal Principles of Design”. Written by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler © 2003 Rockport Publishers, Inc.
This book was written as a guide to “enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, make better design decisions, and teach through design.”
While we marketers may not consider ourselves “designers” – we do fall under the definition o: “a person who plans the form, look, or workings of something before its being made or built…”