Striving For Perfection

Some people avoid traveling by air at all costs, although not as many as in the past. Fear of flying was more pronounced years ago when airplane crashes were a more common occurrence.

Over the years engineers, pilots and safety officials have studied each accident and made steady improvements in aircraft design and pilot training to the point where the last fatal U.S. airline accident was in 2009, and last year there was not a single accidental commercial jetliner passenger fatality anywhere in the world, according to the International Air Transport Association. (A couple of well-publicized passenger plane losses were due to deliberate pilot action or terrorism, categorized as intentional rather than accidental.)

Flying has never been safer. Your chances of being killed in an airplane crash are one in nearly 100,000, according to the National Safety Council, as opposed to one in about 100 in a car crash, or one in roughly 50,000 by a bee sting. You are in much greater danger driving to one of our airports than you are after boarding a plane there.

I began reflecting on the remarkable safety record of commercial aviation when thinking about how to achieve perfection in our business. Perfection, we are told, is impossible to achieve. No matter how much we strive to improve, human or mechanical error will somewhere, sometime come into play.

This no doubt is true, though there’s a flip side to that equation. That’s the fact that if you don’t strive for perfection, you are bound to fall well short. If you focus on achieving perfection, you will probably finish much closer to that goal even if you cannot attain it.

Dutton Plumbing belongs to a trade organization that provides valuable training in a number of areas. One is a concept we are striving to achieve of the “perfect service call.”

A perfect service call begins with the way our personnel answer the phone when someone calls for service. (Actually, it begins even before that, with our commitment to having a live person answering the phone, as opposed to a messaging service or long phone tree menu.) Answering the phone sounds like a simple task, but it can frustrate our customers if they end up speaking to someone who sounds in a bad mood or cannot capture and provide important information correctly. That’s why our customer service representatives (CSRs) undergo extensive training to put customers at ease and obtain required information.

The next element that needs to be perfected is the handoff from the CSR to the dispatcher. It’s the dispatcher’s job to get a service technician to your door as soon as possible. This can be complicated by the fact that many of our customers ask for a specific technician by name, one they have gotten to know and whose work has pleased them in the past. Complicated or not, a perfect service call will leave you happy with how quickly we get to your door and who we send.

When a technician arrives, the perfect service call requires not only that the work gets done correctly, but that the technician advises you of all available options ranging from a simple repair to total replacement of whatever plumbing product or system is giving you trouble, and the price you’ll pay for each option.

The perfect service call requires that our technician leave your premises cleaner than he found it. Prior to leaving, our version of a perfect service call requires our technician to leave behind useful information and give you the opportunity to sign up for one of our Family Plan service agreements, which result in discounted prices and priority service, among other benefits.

Afterward, our perfect service call requires that we check up on the job performed and make sure you are completely satisfied with the work and the service provided. If you are unhappy in any way, we will do everything reasonably possible to make you happy.

Because we’re fallible humans, I don’t know if we’ve ever achieved a 100% perfect service call. I do know that if we ever quit trying, we’ll end up way too far away from that goal.

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