I went to Florence last week and fulfilled my dream of seeing the leather school at Santa Croce, and splurging on something made with care, the best materials (leather produced in Italy), and attention to detail. I picked out a leather jacket with a distinctive smocked effect. The sleeves were too long, but Vito assured me that they could shorten them immediately and I could pick the coat up that afternoon.
I agonized over how much it cost, being a very frugal person, and not given to buying the luxuries I often covet. This coat was producing a lot of deep feelings. Call me silly, but that's the truth.
When I picked up the coat, however, I noticed that the new seam on one of the sleeves was a tiny bit crooked and made an undesirable tuck in the smocked material. It's something most people would probably not notice, but I immediately felt a pang. I was in an emotional state, I was pressed for time, and I didn't want to complain. I wanted to believe that this was the most wonderful leather-working organization ever. My mind started working on how I could rework the piece myself without leaving needle holes showing.
I've gone through the "should haves" over and over again. I should have insisted on a coat without the defect, and waited a little longer or refused to take it. I'm not the only customer who has accepted a product with a defect and gone away disappointed and disillusioned about all the things an organization has done to create its reputation.
I felt so let down that I couldn't open the bag later to look at the coat. I took the unopened bag through the airline check-in and hand-baggage approval, through Italian customs to get my VAT refund approved, through numberless security checks, on two airplanes, through American customs, and home. It took me three days to open the bag and take out the jacket. All the feelings I wanted to have were crushed by this defect that they allowed and I accepted. I haven't cried over it, but I might.
This is an extreme reaction to a product defect, but think of all the people working in systems that allow defects to occur and how powerless they may feel to prevent them. No one comes to work to do a bad job. People get hardened to the knowledge that customers get defective products, but I think they have deep emotions tied to it.
That's why mistake proofing, quality at the source, training, and consistent standards are so important. Everything must be in place so the customer gets perfection. Every employee must be confident that they produce the best.
When it all works right, you can have the hearts and minds of employees and loyalty of your customers. When it doesn't, you betray them, and they know it.