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February 21, 2007

No Business is Perfect

Is it unrealistic for us to expect businesses to be perfect? Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment by expecting businesses to flawlessly deliver every single time? As customers, are we expecting perfection when perfection is unattainable? Is that fair of us?

I’m not trying to make excuses for when businesses fail us. But failure happens. No business is perfect. Yet, we seem to expect businesses to be perfect all the time. One poor encounter with a company’s customer service rep sets many of us off into a rage against that business. One misstep by a company spoils everything for many of us. A series of cancelled flights and thousands of stranded customers can trigger a major backlash. (Yep, I’m talking JetBlue here.)

JetBlue messed up BIG-TIME. No doubt about it. They failed their customers in unimaginable ways. We now know JetBlue is far from perfect. But was it realistic for us to expect JetBlue to be perfect?

No business is perfect. NONE. Business is a game of progress, not perfection. No business will be perfect. It's an impossibly unattainable goal. But while that goal is unattainable, the most endearing and enduring businesses seem to always aspire to reach perfection. They always make progressive steps to improve their business and how their business connects with people. Sure, they will stumble along the way. But the true measure of a company is how they recover and forge ahead making progress along the way to overcome their mistakes.

No person is perfect. NO ONE. As people we also mess up BIG-TIME. We constantly make bad decisions that harm others. We disappoint friends. We betray people’s trust. We cannot achieve perfection. Doesn't mean we should give up and not try. The most endearing and enduring people I know make progress every day to improve themselves and their relationships with others. And when people see progress being made, they are willing to forgive mistakes.

Thank goodness people are so forgiving. Otherwise, I wouldn't have any friends. I've pissed off enough people in enough ways to not have friends. Lucky for me, people are forgiving. I still have some friends. Lost some along the way—but the ones I still have are great.

I think JetBlue can recover. I think customers have it in their hearts to forgive them for messing up BIG-TIME. It'll take time though as well as diligent focus from every JetBlue employee to make progress in earning back trust and friendship from customers.

In GOOD TO GREAT, Jim Collins says one factor that determines which companies go from being good to being great is how they deal with adversity. He says that many of the good-to-great companies he studied faced a company-defining crisis. According to Collins, what separates the winners from the losers is how they confronted and responded to the crisis …

“The good-to-great companies faced just as much adversity as the comparison companies, but responded to that adversity differently. They hit the realities of their situation head-on. As a result, they emerged from adversity even stronger."

JetBlue is considered a good airline. How they confront and respond to this crisis will determine if they can ever progress to becoming a great airline. Time will tell if JetBlue can make the good-to-great leap.


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» Companies and People Make Mistakes from Chip Griffin: Pardon the Disruption
An excellent post from John Moore at Brand Autopsy reminds us that every company makes mistakes. No business is perfect. NONE. Business is a game of progress, not perfection. No business will be perfect. It's an impossibly unattainable goal. But [Read More]


JetBlue failed at the one thing it had going: it had remarkable focus on the customer. Gone! JB failed miserable on V-Day. I know I was at the JFK terminal. The lucky thing is that JetBlue is in the airline industry. Almost every airline debases their customer. Until another airline comes along at JFK that treats customers remarkable, JB will only get a small, temporary ding.

No business is perfect. A good start to the topic of the week, John. Even though JetBlue had failed many customers during the Valentine's Day week and President's Day weekend they are beginning the journey toward a revived company. All airlines have dire customer service problems but so far JetBlue seems to be handling their airplane prisoner foibles with progress and humility. The public apology letter is a great start to a campaign that could bring back JB fliers as well as recruit more. I say, kudos to CEO David Neeleman for expressing apologies with a newly drawn-up "customer bill of rights".

A strong brand allows you to make mistakes. Because it provides customers both the emotional and intellectual connection to your company that oftentimes transcends individual experiences or strategic missteps. The important thing for companies like Jet Blue and others to think about is how they leverage their core assets to apologize and move on - owning up to the realities of the mistakes and clearly outlining their intended path to resolution, based on their brand tenets and what people believe about them. Your brand is your road map, and if sometimes you swerve off of the road, it provides you the guidance to know how to respond in a way that gets you back on the road - and paves the way for helping people forget you swerved in the first place.

Jen ... I love your "A strong brand allows you to make mistakes." Well said!

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