We live in a world that simply overflows with advice: every day we read blogs full of tips and tricks, we find tutorials about every field of knowledge, we get suggestions for every activity we are involved with. There’s always a helping hand out there, ready to point us in the right direction: that of the “best practice”. Everything we do, both in our job and in our life, has a “best practice” that we must follow in order to achieve excellence.
Yet excellence, true excellence, seems elusive. The internet is full of blogs dripping with great ideas about the best practices to improve customer service, social media, marketing and management… yet so very few companies seem to get it right. The best practice is out there: we all know everything about it. We even blog about it, yet excellence is nowhere to be seen.
Where are we getting it wrong?
I’m just guessing, but the problem might be in our mindset: to believe that the road to excellence is already paved with a nice steady set of “best practices” is very naive on our part. Also, it kind of speaks to how lazy we all are: instead of thinking with our head, instead of wasting time and money with good ol’ trial and error, we just google it and read everything about the best practice. There, I found it: a nice, tidy blog post that list “The 20 easy rules for awesome customer care”. Done!
We probably have to think again.
A firefly in a mason jar
What happens when we finally nail down the “best practice” for something (anything)? Do we actually reach excellent quality? Not quite. It’s like putting a firefly in a mason jar: it will stop flashing and it will just die.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the only way to capture excellence is to keep looking for it. The moment we define it, the moment we decide “this is it!”, the moment we get rational enough to write down the Ten Commandments, we subconsciously let go of our research and start to muddle again with mediocrity. We get lazy, we sit down… and excellence is gone. Dead.
And this has never been truer than with customer care: do we really believe that there can be preset actions and words to perfectly deal with people? Connecting with other human beings is so incredibly personal… how can it possibly be coded down to rules? Isn’t it terribly egocentric, to think that we can decide the rules that make our clients happy?
Best practices, but best for whom?
More often than not, best practices are meant to ensure the best for the company: they are there to teach agents and marketers how to interact with customers without putting the company in trouble.
Imagine how dangerous it would beif an agent decided out of his own free will to replace every single product that receives a complain, at the company’s expenses! Imagine how terrible it would be for a brand if a marketer actually admitted his (or his company’s) faults and was ready to talk about it. To avoid such pitfall, best practices are made. But are these really pitfalls?
Be daring, be innovative. Or simply be yourself.
There are no suggestions that are specific for your company: each brand is unique. You can read as many case studies as you want, you can compile as many list of best practices you like, but the moment you decide to follow the rules, you will sink. Because there’s no other way: you just have to keep swimming.
Outstanding quality is extremely hard to achieve: it takes way more than a simple set of downloadable rules. Excellent service cannot be taught… but it needs to be felt. You need to let people be free to truly interact with each other in a natural way, without getting bogged down by so called “best practices”.
A bunch of smarter and more successful people that think the same way I do: