In This Issue

The Devil Is In the Details

Allow me to take you on a pleasant daydream. It’s Tuesday night and you've just gotten off the phone with someone you've been crazy about for a long time. You weren’t sure they knew you existed before the phone call and yet, amazingly, you’ve both agreed to go on a date next Friday night.
Written by James La Barrie

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Originally printed in issue #57 (September 2014) of Blue Skies Magazine.
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Allow me to take you on a pleasant daydream. It’s Tuesday night and you’ve just gotten off the phone with someone you’ve been crazy about for a long time. You weren’t sure they knew you existed before the phone call and yet, amazingly, you’ve both agreed to go on a date next Friday night.

You’re in charge of planning this dream date and obviously you hope a second date follows—or better yet, the person falls madly in love with you (this is a dream, right?). You go through extensive planning reading restaurant reviews on various sites in hopes of finding a perfect fit for this important event: excellent customer service, great food, romantic atmosphere and maybe some live music.

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You’ve got just one chance to make a good first impression. You want to be sure that, come Saturday, your date will be telling friends how amazing the date was … so plan—and plan well!

Finally, it’s Friday. You’ve been thinking about this every day for the last 10 days. You arrive at the house to pick up your date. Your car hasn’t been this clean since you drove it off the lot. Your heart is pounding in your ears and you take several long, deep breaths in hopes of bringing your heart rate down. Your face feels flushed. Your sweaty palms make you reach for the glove box to pull out a tissue to dry them off. You blow air into your palm to check your breath. You pop an Altoid to be sure.

You open the door of your car and walk up the driveway. Your subconscious is highly alert as you unknowingly take in every detail as you walk to the front door. The worn concrete on the driveway is cracked with weeds just starting to emerge, the hedge is trimmed, the beds could do with a little more mulch, but, on the whole, someone is looking after things.

You reach the entryway and with one last deep breath, push the doorbell. The door opens and in that moment time stands still. You both evaluate and make judgments about each other. You notice everything. How the person looks from head to toe. The details of their shoes to the effort put into their hair … and in that moment you feel a level of excitement or slight disappointment. You’ve also noticed all the details in the hallway behind your date: the umbrella leaning against the hall table, the cat watching warily in the background.

This first impression is the most important moment of the evening and sets the groundwork for either a great night or one where each of you long for the experience to end. Hopefully, a second date will result from your careful planning and the fabulous evening you both enjoyed.

The emotions felt on a first date aren’t dissimilar to those felt by our students who come to the DZ for the first time. Out of our comfort zones, awareness levels are in hyper mode. From the moment a reservation is made, our future guests are thinking about arriving at our drop zones.

Will our first impression match their expectations?

As skydivers, the DZ is our second home. The way we experience things is completely different from the way our guests experience things. See someone running to the plane? We think nothing of it. Every guest on the DZ is locked in on that movement. Think your conversation isn’t being listened to? Our guests are listening to every word spoken between instructors within ear shot. The heightened awareness levels of our guests are tuned in to everything; every detail, every noise, every conversation is being analyzed.

The best companies pay attention to the things others typically don’t notice: the small, easy-to-miss details that play a key role in determining the quality of each customer’s experience.

In reading the biography of Steve Jobs, I marveled at the level of detail he incorporated into the design of his products—even in the elements a typical consumer won’t see, like the interior of a computer. For Jobs, the interior design was as important as the exterior design (to the frustration of many engineers who couldn’t understand the importance). No detail was left to chance.

As business owners or business managers, it’s easy to lose sight of what our customers see. It’s perfectly natural and, fortunately, simple to remedy. Here are two effective methods to help you see your business through the eyes of your customer:

1. Run the “Mom Test.”
Imagine your mom is coming to the DZ for the first time: How would your perception of the DZ change? Your awareness levels would be heightened because you’d want her to have the best experience possible. If you look at the DZ through this lens, you’ll start to notice things you hadn’t noticed before.

2. Survey your guests.
I’ve said it before, but I can’t overstate the value of surveying your guests 24 hours after their experience. Ask questions that revolve around every point of interaction. You’ll have your pulse on the operation as your customers report what they’re happy or unhappy about!

Our guests pay a premium price and expect a premium adventure. The hardest challenge DZ owners face is exceeding expectations when the expectations of our customers are already high. Just like paying attention to the small details can take a date from “good” to “unforgettable,” paying attention to each point of interaction our customers encounter at our DZ can take their experience from “OK” to “extraordinary.”

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