Customer: Is the difference between 99% and 100% everything?

Where does reasonableness tend to lead to?

I say that the issue with most organisations is that they are reasonable.  These organisations and the people in them – from the ivory tower to the coal face – are, on the whole, being reasonable.  Reasonable executives focus exclusively on optimising for the short-term. Why? Because it is reasonable – that is what the stock market analysts expect.  Reasonable managers treat their employees reasonably.  Reasonable employees put reasonable effort into their work.  Reasonable people make reasonable products. Reasonable people provide reasonable service.  Reasonable people build reasonable websites.  Reasonable people stick to what is known. Reasonable people aspire to go after best practice.  Reasonable people don’t do innovation – it is too risky.  Reasonable people stick with the herd and don’t stick their necks out.  What do you get when you have an organisation which is run and staffed by reasonable people being reasonable?  Average, at best.  Mediocrity is not uncommon.

Can you take the road of reasonableness to arrive at customer-centricity?

Now let’s turn to the subject of customer-centricity and the customer experience.   You get that your organisation is not customer-centric and you want to make it customer-centric.  You get that your products are not good enough and you want to come up with better products.  You get that your service is not good enough and you want to improve your service.  Or you get your entire end to end customer experience is not good enough and you are up for coming up with a good/great customer experience.  So my question is this: will you reach your goal simply by being reasonable?

When I look at what is so on the ground, the answer to my question is YES.  Being reasonableness must be the way to be.  Why do I say that?  Because what I see is reasonableness in many forms.  Reasonable people taking the reasonable course of action using reasonable tools and aiming for reasonable goals.  In short, when I strip away the bold talk of customer-centricity or even customer obsession I see simply the aspiration to be somewhat better than we are today – to suck less.

Be unreasonable if you want to excel at and win the game of customer-centricity?

I say that if you want to excel at the game of customer-centricity, the game of customer experience, then you have to be unreasonable.  You have to be unreasonable in your commitment to creating value for your customer.  An unreasonable commitment to understanding your customers and what matters to them. An unreasonable commitment to coming up with value propositions (product, offer, promise) that meet customer needs. An unreasonable commitment to speaking with your customers so that they get your value proposition. An unreasonble commitment to designing/delivering a customer experience (end to end) that delivers the promises made in the value proposition and communications. And that means an unreasonable commitment to creating a context where the people in your organisation are called to be unreasonable in the their commitment to creating value for their customers. 

When I speak ‘unreasonable’ what am I calling attention to?  What am I pointing at?  I am pointing at a kind of stand that you take.  A way that you show up in the world.  It is best exemplified as the difference between 99% and 100% is everything!  Allow me to make this clearer by sharing the word of Mark Spiritos, a Landmark Forum Leader:

“If in the making of a computer chip or a bicycle wheel some small part were left out, neither would be able to function as intended. Any disruption in the integrity of something’s design, however small, impacts its workability and function. When something is whole and complete, it is not good per se, it just works.

The same holds true in being human. When the wholeness and completeness of who we are is jeopardized in some way, however small, that begins to alter our life, even if at first it’s imperceptible. We might experience a sense of discomfort; spend time defending, explaining, or pointing fingers; find ourselves tolerating a level of unworkability that we might not normally put up with. And because this happens in small increments, we don’t fully get the kind of impact it has on things not working in our lives…..

A baseline that was once at 100% now is at 99 or 98 or 70%. But it’s that difference between 99 and 100% that’s everything—it’s in that 1% that the quality of our life gets altered. Our sense of ourselves becomes more and more obscured, making it harder and harder over time to return to who we are. In being true to ourselves, being authentic, we tip the scales. Integrity and living a life of power and effectiveness are inseparable.”

And finally

It occurs to me that the difference between 100% and 99% is a difference that makes a huge difference.  You either are 100% committed to providing great products or you are not.  You either are 100% committed to making it easy for customers to do business with you or not.  You either are 100% committed to providing great customer service or not.  You either are 100% committed to designing/delivering a great end to end customer experience or you are not. You are 100% commitment to ongoingly create value for customers – simplifying, enriching, transforming their lives – or you are not.  If you do not recognise the difference between 99% and 100% then you are fooling yourself.  You are vulnerable to someone, some organisation, that does recognise the difference and is 100% committed.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

4 thoughts on “Customer: Is the difference between 99% and 100% everything?”

  1. Maz,

    I enjoyed your post, but it is the last sentence that I think is the critical one:

    You are vulnerable to someone, some organisation, that does recognise the difference and is 100% committed.

    If you aren’ giving it everything you have got, no matter what field, somebody else will be. And so they will win.

    You should aspire to have your cake and eat.



    1. Hello James

      Yes, you and I are in agreement. Contrary to accepted wisdom, customers do not cause disruption. Customers are powerless and often simply just patsies or doormats. It is always competitors that cause disruption. It is the competitor who comes up with a better product or service or total experience that disrupts. Why? Because it is that competitor that provides choice thus enabling customers to switch. And with what is so in regards to digital technologies and social media – the opportunity for disruption is abundant. And there are plenty of people who see this opportunity and are up for seizing it. Blockbuster, HMV, Jessops will not be the only brands that become obsolete on the high street.



  2. Hi Maz,
    I don’t think there is any such thing as 99% commitment. I know that you are using this as an example to illustrate a point but for me it is a binary question….you are either 100% or you’re not, you’re either committed or not….



    1. Hello Adrian
      I have a favourite saying “you are either pregnant or not pregnant you cannot be somewhat pregnant’. So you and I are in complete agreement. And the whole point is that when you go from 100% commitment and make the small compromise which leaves you at 99% the tendency is to think you are still committed. And you no longer are.



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