The Customer Service Survey

Pretty Good Practices

by Peter Leppik on Mon, 2012-04-16 16:06

In business we talk a lot about "best practices." The general idea, which is a good one, is that industries can develop and standardize certain ways of operating which are demonstrably better than the alternatives.

I have some problems with how this works in the real world. Ideas promoted as "best practices" are rarely backed up by the kind of rigorous research the phrase implies. Too often, a "best practice" works well for some companies in some circumstances, but doesn't work elsewhere. At worst, "best practices" are sometimes nothing more than interesting ideas from consultants looking to drum up business. Perhaps my biggest complaint, though, is that the phrase "best practice" implies that the "best practice" can't be improved and that no alternative approach would be better.

I think most businesspeople understand this, and know that every situation (especially in the customer service world) is unique. What most companies are looking for from "best practices" are ideas which have worked elsewhere and might be adopted (or adapted) in their own operation where it makes sense.

So I no longer talk about "best practices" with my clients. Instead, being from Minnesota, I tell my clients about "pretty good practices."

"Pretty good practices" are ideas which work in some companies and make sense to consider for other companies. Pretty good practices are not set in stone, so they can be refined to fit the unique culture and situation of each organization. Pretty good practices are things I consider pretty good, but I'll keep my mind open in case a better idea comes along.

Most importantly, though, where prescribing a "best practice" tends to end the discussion (whether the practice is really the "best" or not), taking about "pretty good practices" is the beginning of a conversation about how to improve.

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