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    Road trip to nowhere (or “just hang on, we are almost there”).

    Posted by Luis Serpa on February 13, 2007 - 11:50 PM

    Slippery road signToday I’ve learned two important lessons:

    1. Some habits are forced upon you and others are very hard to give up.

    2. If you are doing something different from everyone else, you are either remarkable or just plain dumb.

    If I’d knew that this morning, it would have completely changed my day…

    Having lived my whole life in a tropical country, I find very difficult to remember to turn on the TV everyday to see the weather forecast before leaving to work.  In my mind, it should be enough to check it once a week.

    (Matter of fact, I still have the habit of looking outside the window to “guess” the weather for the day).

    Here in Chicago, the forecast was for a huge snowstorm, so unless one had a “life or death” kind of appointment, every wise person stayed at home and waited to see what Mother Nature would decide to throw our way. Well, I didn’t.  Nothing was said about a storm on the day before yesterday’s forecast, and my window guess told me that the snow outside didn’t appear to be that bad, so I ventured out and faced the road.

    After driving for 15 minutes, I could already tell that it wasn’t going to be a fun trip. It was slick and slushy, not a single snowplow in sight, and the wind was starting to blow – HARD.  I could see many people turning back, but I am not one to give up easily, so I thought: “Everything will flow after I get to the highway…”

    The highway came and the traffic slowed to almost a stop.  Still, not a single snowplower in sight.  The maximum velocity was about 15mph.  The road was extremely slippery and the only way to keep driving straight was to stay precisely on the tracks left by the car before you.

    All that white around didn’t help alleviate my feeling of sleep deprivation and anxiety.  I had no idea how long it would take to get to work or if the storm would still go on for hours. Other cars started to stop in the curb or look for the exit to go back.  I kept thinking that everything would be all right if I just insisted for another ten miles and, in the end, I found myself turning back after 2.5 hours without even reaching half way to my office. 

    Almost 5 hours after leaving my home, I was back.  I didn’t reach my destination and didn’t accomplish anything at all for first half of my day.  I went on a road trip to nowhere for no apparent reason.  On hindsight, I could have worked from the comfort of my home, attended to any meetings via conference call.  It might not be ideal, but would definitely be a better experience.

    Like me in that story, customers sometimes are slow to react to a bad experience.  By pure habit, they hang on to a bad service for longer than anyone would consider possible.  But that’s an illusion!  If you ignore a customer experience problem until your customers start to leave, you may be waiting too long and now the damage may be irreversible, or just too expensive to fix.

    Don’t make a habit of overlooking your customers’ complaints and suggestions.  If you ignore the signs around you, chances are that you’re going the wrong way.

    By the way, tomorrow morning, before leaving, I plan to open my window, take a good look outside… and turn on the TV!

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