Why is there a seat 32B?

  • September 6, 2011
  • Scott

Actually, my least favorite seat on a certain model of plane that flies in and out of Austin is 27E.  Some planes manage to pack the lavatory, the kitchen, the divider wall right behind you (no reclining!), and engine noise all in one truly fantastically bad seat.

Jason Cohen asks the question: why?  Why not spend time either improving the worst case experiences for your customers – or better yet, eliminating them entirely?  Would it be such a bad idea for the airlines to eliminate a few of these bad seats?  To put more insulation in? To offer some freebie or consolation prize for the bad seat?

Eliminating these worst-case experiences doesn’t mean radically changing your business. It just means saying no to customers or projects that aren’t a good fit:

Bill impressed them and they were ready to begin, but Bill decided this was too far outside his experience and so told them, while it would be interesting and fun for him, and he was confident in his abilities, he isn’t comfortable accepting this job, because he wants no chance that they’ll have a bad experience.

Of course this only won the customer over still more. Bill won’t do this particular gig, but I guarantee that when something else comes up in six months, he’ll automatically be offered the job. As for me, I’m going to continue connecting customers with Bill because there is no seat 32B with Bill.

Saying “No” requires that you know yourself- or your firm – well enough to know what you’re not going to do.  Buried in the example is the fact hat Jason’s startup is referring this consulting business to a consultant – rather than doing it in-house.  Another example of knowing when something is outside the suite spot.

Now I need to go think about how to eliminate seat 32B for our customers at BP3!  Looking at this from a BPM/process perspective, however, I’ve often see customers look at this the wrong way – focusing on all the exceptions before they have the average case nailed down tight.  What Jason has described here isn’t handling every exception, it is recognizing a bad situation and either avoiding it (saying no), or figuring out how to make it not feel like seat 32B. A precursor to this is actually getting the average case nailed down and sorted out.

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