How many mistakes can you make?

Everyone has a friend that tells them stories about their dreams. Incredible stories.Stories where the dreams match a later event with almost unbelievable accuracy. I have a friend who is convinced that he has some form of supernatural ability. He told me about two such examples. One was back at school where an important exam was coming up that he had been studying hard for. The questions on the exam were either going to be about two poems that he had been studying or two short stories. The night before the exam he dreamt that the questions were going to be about the poems and… drum roll… it was! And he even dreamt about the types of questions in the exam. In scientific terms, ‘guessing’ something right when you have a 50/50 chance is called coincidence. Knowing the types of questions you will be asked when you have been studying hard is called logical. The other example was that he dreamt about his pregnant sister-in-law, who was desperate to have a baby girl. In the dream, my friend dreamt that the sex of the baby was female. When the sex was determined and announced, it was a girl! Unbelievable supernatural dream capabilities to guess another 50/50 chance right. And for his next trick… Nope. That was it. In his mid forties, they were the best two pieces of evidence he could produce in his life.

Despite these incredible pieces of ‘evidence’ I am yet to meet anyone with the ability to see into the future through their dreams. What you are seeing here is confirmation bias. You see evidence of confirmation bias way too often. People have a belief or a hypothesis and look for sketchy facts to support this view and conveniently discard the entire body of facts. Dreams are a simple example. Most humans are awake for approximately 1.753M seconds each month. We are experiencing our world every second we are awake during the month. When we sleep, we have knowledge of our waking world and we think about it. We dream about it. Out of those 1.753M seconds each month, sometimes we dream about something that later happens. What we conveniently ignore are the thousands of dreams that don’t come true. Dreams about running into an old school friend or winning a gold medal at the Olympics or picking the correct numbers in a lottery. We confirm the rare hits and conveniently ignore the thousands of misses. Given the fact that we have so many dreams and we experience so many things in our lives, the laws of probability say that we are going to get some of them right.

This all may seem a little obscure in a business article but it is absolutely critical to better understand customer satisfaction. If ever there was a case for how important first impressions are, it is understanding confirmation bias. If the first experience a client has with your Managed Services business is a positive one and one that delivers service above their expectations, you can make four mistakes before a client starts to become frustrated with your service. If, on the other hand, their first experience with you is a negative one, the first mistake you make confirms, in their mind, that your firm is always making mistakes. The important component here is creating an initial impression on the client that is a positive one. If you can create that initial positive belief, the client will tend to discard negative experiences and focus on experiences that support their belief. These initial positive experiences can be generated in a number of ways. Have all of your staff wear a professional uniform and wear it with pride. Make sure your cars are kept clean so they look good when clients see them arrive. From a service perspective, schedule the first maintenance check and first proactive consultancy meeting immediately after the client signs the SLA. If you have a regime of monthly maintenance checks, for example, don’t wait 29 days to perform the first maintenance check. Do it the next day. Make a follow-up call after the first maintenance check to see if the service met their expectations. In short, smother them with good service from the outset and, even if you can’t quite maintain that level of service, the natural human tendency towards confirmation bias will ensure that your company is always viewed more favorably.

Tell me how closely your dreams match reality at [email protected].

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