Failing Your Customers Can Help You Serve Them Better
Hey, we get it – nobody wants to fail. But the hard truth is that failure is a fact of life. We try, get knocked down, and pick ourselves up to try again. We hold the ‘dust yourself off and get back on the horse’ ethos as admirable. We teach it to our children, and encourage them to learn from their mistakes. And we try to do this ourselves, as well.
Failure to Launch vs. Failure to Learn
Here in Silicon Valley, failure is the foundation upon which many successes are built. Consider ‘Game Neverending‘ – the failed online role-playing game that became Flickr. Or the check-in app ‘Burbn,‘ which pivoted to become Instagram. Or ‘Tote‘ – which repositioned and refocused to become Pinterest. In this part of the world, the greatest failure is failure to launch.
Yet in business overall, failure is often treated as something to hide, ignore or – at best – quickly move past. The more visible or impactful the failure is, the greater the chance that those involved – often leaders or managers – engage in fault-finding rather than fact-finding.
This is a huge mistake. Because the ability to embrace and learn from (inevitable) failure can be a game-changer when it comes to achieving success. Consider the field of engineering, for example; they study how and why failures occur to learn how to build stronger, safer structures. In this and other fields such as manufacturing and electronics, this is done through Failure Analysis – a formal process for determining the causes of failure, to prevent it from happening in the future.
This is an important concept for those of you in the business of customer experience – because the ability to embrace and learn from failure is particularly important. Not only is customer experience improvement based on a deep understanding of where interactions with customers fail to meet expectations, the ability to drive customer experience innovation can thrive only in an environment where ‘fear of failure’ isn’t part of the organizational culture.
Customer experience leaders know how put those failures to work. They obviously don’t celebrate (or tolerate) failure, but neither is it ignored or used to assign blame. These leaders embrace not failure, but what they can learn from it. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that those leaders who succeed with failure across different businesses and industries share a number of common traits.
These traits make up a common-sense framework that you can learn from and follow, too.
Don’t fail failure: Embracing “The Other ‘F’ Word.”
Over the last several years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mark Coopersmith to help bring the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley vision of innovation and entrepreneurship to life for MBA students and global executives through the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Mark and co-author John Danner’s excellent book – The Other “F” Word: How Smart Leaders, Teams, and Entrepreneurs Put Failure to Work – is billed as a “…pragmatic guide to exploring the frontier of failure, and improving performance,” Go to the full article.