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The ONLY person you should disappoint today

If you’re in the customer service business, you’re going to have a lot of choices. Whom to help, whom to ignore, which people to prioritize, which people can wait until later.

Competition and a pressure for profit has severely impacted the ratio of people providing help to people needing help. This generally ensures that demand exceeds supply. Someone will be disappointed.

Now think of a business where people aren’t disappointed. The French Laundry restaurant gets rave reviews. The service is impeccable. The food is remarkable and memorable. The wine options are world-class. No one says “depends on which night you go” or “avoid the salmon” - on the surface, no one appears to be disappointed. If the kitchen dynamic is toxic, they’ll have so much staff turnover that patrons will notice. So, who is disappointed? 

The only disappointed person at the French Laundry is the couple that walks in and expects to be seated without a reservation. If you’re willing to wait long enough and cough up the necessary funds for a single meal, you won’t be disappointed. 

How many other businesses have this precision of focus on who will be disappointed? Not airlines. Nor fast-casual restaurants. Not the urgent care clinic, nor the department of motor vehicles. 

What most service organizations suffer from is a challenge on demand, supply and capacity. If, however, you can control the ratio of supply to demand, or limit capacity, you can limit or even eliminate the possibility of disappointed customers. 

The only person you should disappoint is the person you’ve identified in advance that you won’t be helping today. By letting them know this up front, you can further reduce their frustration. 

To avoid burnout, you can’t afford to disappoint these:

  • Yourself (by accepting that one extra “urgent” request that came in last minute)

  • Your family (by missing the honor ceremony at school because of a work meeting)

  • Your partner (by missing dinner because of pressure to be a “team player”)

  • Your existing customers (by rushing to finish and sacrificing quality)

  • Your patient customers (by putting the squeaky wheels first)

  • Your health (by not taking time to stretch, stand, walk, rest)

  • Your mood (by skipping meals, or taking someone else’s stress due to a weakness empathy)

Identify whom you don’t have time to assist today. Let them know. Then carve out enough time to do the other items at a quality level that will make you proud. 


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