A Slice of Common Sense
Friday nights are family night at the Girard household - a chance for the entire family to enjoy some down time together, putting the busy week behind us before we jump feet-first into the weekend.
To give us more time to enjoy each other's company, family nights usually include a supper that is quick and easy with little to no cleanup necessary. For this, there is no better choice than ordering pizza.
The Promise of a Deal
A few weeks ago, I was preparing to place a pizza order when I came across an advertised special from a local pizzeria – 2 large, 1-topping pizzas for only $15.99. This sounded like a pretty good deal, the only problem was that the kids don’t like any toppings on their pizza. No problem, I'd just get one of the pizzas with only cheese and have them put that unused topping on the second pizza.
I placed my order and explained what I wanted, only to be promptly told that the special would not apply to this purchase. I was confused – wasn’t I getting the exact same amount of toppings, but added to one pizza instead of distributed between two?
When 1 + 1 Does Not Equal 2
The mathematical rules of addition apparently do not apply to pizza toppings, because if I wanted two large pizzas, with one topping on each (for a total of two toppings spread across two pizzas), my price would be $15.99. If, however, I choose to apply those exact same two toppings to one pizza and keep my other pizza topping-free (for a grand total of…that’s right, two toppings spread across two pizzas), well than that would cost me $22.98 ($8.99 for the large cheese and $13.99 for the two-topping pizza). This made no sense to me at all.
I tried to reason with the man behind the counter. I explained that either way, I was ordering the same amount of pizza and the same amount of toppings, so the price should be exactly the same, right? Nope, the price was $22.98.
To satisfy my curiosity, I then asked what the cost would be if I ordered the two pizzas, but only had a topping applied to one – in essence losing out on one of the toppings advertised in the special. Well, in that case, then the special would be fine - $15.99. Yeah, that's what I figured.
Not An Ideal Ending
I'd love to tell you that the absurdity of the restaurant's pizza-topping-tyranny caused me to take my business elsewhere, but it was getting late and I had a family at home to feed, so I ordered my large one-topping and large cheese and made my way home.
What bothered me the most about this situation wasn’t the fact that I ended up paying for a topping that I did not get. What really got to me was how rigidly the pizzeria stuck to their rule at the expense of customer service and, more importantly, common sense.
As the Creative Director for Envision Technology Advisors, a big part of my job is dealing with client requests, project timelines and budgets. In a perfect world, all three of these project components would align perfectly every single time. As I'm sure you know, we do not live in a perfect world.
To help keep web design projects on time and on budget, a well defined process is essential. The process we use at Envision keeps the client in the loop throughout the entire project lifecycle and requires their review and approval at key milestones (discovery documents, design mockups, beta site, etc.). We routinely are praised for this process, being told from many clients that they appreciated the fact that they always knew where the project stood, what was coming next and what was expected of them at each stage. Unfortunately, our process is not always met with such praise.
Process vs. Project
I was recently working on a project that was proving to be very challenging to manage. A large team of decision makers, content responsibilities spread across multiple contributors and decisions that had been previously approved suddenly being revisited and reopened for discussion were all at play here. Trying to provide some stability and structure to the project, I choose to lean heavily on our process. This was an approach that had worked for me in similar situations in the past, but this time it backfired. As frustration grew on both sides of the project, a comment was made that it seemed as if we “cared more about our process that the project.”
I quickly realized the mistake that I had made by not better responding to the unique needs this particular client had. The team at Envision and I stepped back from our process for a bit and worked with our client to find an approach that everyone involved was comfortable with.
Did we end up steering very far away from our normal process? No, we did not. In the end, all that was required was a little flexibility on our part to get everyone on the same page, working towards the same goal.
Good Service is Common Sense
While it is true that a well defined process is essential for success, this project reminded me that you should never let the process itself become your primary focus. Your rules are not more important that your relationships.
There will be times when your project will follow your process to the letter, but other engagements will require you to adapt and be flexible. Exactly how flexible you allow your process to be is something you must decide on a case by case basis, for just as there will be times when you must adapt your process a bit to accommodate your client's needs, there will also be times when you must stick to your guns and decline a client request because it takes you too far away from your guidelines for a successful deployment.
Knowing when a client request will hurt the overall project and when they are really just asking for the same amount of pizza toppings spread across the same amount of pizzas, and reacting accordingly to those requests, is more than just good customer service - it's common sense.