When Good Enough Just Isn’t Good Enough

David Rothman wrote a very interesting post Thursday, “Voltaire & Information Services: ‘Good Enough’ – ‘Excellence’ – ‘Perfection”, saying while the quest for perfection may not be attainable, good enough might not be…well….good enough.  He described how he once worked for a CIO who told him “never let ‘perfect’ get in the way of ‘good enough.”  While he understood the CIO’s intent, he felt something just wasn’t quite right with using “good enough” as a good standard. 

“On the other hand, I don’t think ‘good enough’ is an acceptably high bar. When we deliver services to our customers/patrons/clients, should’t we be shooting for ‘excellence’? Excellence is do-able.

It seems to me that, most of the time, the amount of effort that would bridge the difference between ‘good enough’ and ‘excellent’ is small and that ‘excellence’ pays dividends in extra-satisfied customers/patrons/clients that it is absolutely worth investing.

On the other side of that is that users/clients/customers/patrons are usually savvy enought to know ‘good enough’when they see it. It tells that that their needs really aren’t the priority. Rather than paying dividends, it costs.”

I recently went on cruise for vacation.  Niether me nor my kids nor husband had ever been on a cruise.  It was extended family cruise, and members of my extended family had previously been on cruises. Prior to the cruise they spoke on and on about how wonderful cruising was.  The whole time they were telling me these things I kept thinking, “Yeah I get it, it is fun.  What isn’t fun about being on vacation and relaxing.”  It turns out I really didn’t get it.  Yes, being on vacation was fun but what made the cruise different from a week at the beach, last year’s trip to Hershey Park, or going to Meramec Caverns?  Service.  The service on the cruise was excellent.  It wasn’t just good enough, it was freaking phenomenal.  You want a second helping of lobster on lobster dinner night, bam you get it.  Three helpings? Bam my brother got it.  Midway through the cruise while we were playing and lounging around the pool, our assistant waiter (who we really only saw at dinner)  happened to be on the pool deck for something else and also happened to overhear my brother-in-law mention he would like to get an ice cream.  Important to note, my brother-in-law did not ask the him to get it, he was merely telling us of his plans to go get ice cream.  Not only did our assistant waiter overhear these plans, but he recognized my brother-in-law and told him to relax that he would get it for him.  We were at one of the bars late at night chatting with the family and my husband ordered a beer.  It turns out that bar was out of that specific beer and when the waiter returned with the rest of our drinks he appologized to my husband and told him it would be a few more minutes for his beer because he was going to go down to another bar to get his beer because they were out of it.  We were on deck 14, the closest bar was on deck 11 on the pool deck (if it was open late at night).  These are just a few examples, the entire week the service on the cruise cruise was excellent.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was light years beyond good enough. 

Hospitals aren’t perfect, but “good enough” isn’t good enough either.  As the Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Experience Officer, Dr. James Merlino mentions in an interview with Beckers Hospital Review, hospitals must focus on providing a more patient-centric approach to provide a better patient experience.  Soon part of Medicare reimbursement will be tied to HCAHPS scores, but that isn’t the only reason to be excellent.  The amount of Medicare remibursement is small, the biggest ROI are repeat customers.  Hospital administrators don’t want people to be sick or hurt, but if they are, the administrators want them to choose their hospital to receive treatment vs. a competing hospital. 

“As healthcare continues to become increasingly competitive it is also experiencing greater consumerism. Patients start paying attention to how well they’re treated. Generally now if you go to a top medical center, you’re going to get good outcomes. Medical care is becoming very good, and people now want more than just outcomes. That’s why it’s critical to implement programs that drive service.”

I think librarians in general have been very good at providing excellent service.  Perhaps I am biased because I am a librarian or maybe I am just surrounded by excellent librarians.  But I would say one of the things I have noticed that drives us batty is when we are unable to provide excellent service.  Perhaps it is because the only copy of a book a patron needs is missing, stolen, in repair, etc.  Maybe there is a database that we know our patrons want and need but we can’t get it because it is too expensive, won’t work on the network, restrictive license agreement, etc.  Providing excellent service can sometimes be difficult but it doesn’t mean we still can’t strive to be excellent. While we don’t have HCAHPS score, we do want repeat customers.

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