Instant Replay


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Seattle Seahawks and their inability to finish during the first half of the season.  I was hoping to write about how their outlook has changed after their Sunday Night Football outing against the Arizona Cardinals.  Judging from the loss last night, we may be in for more of the same:  Take the lead in the fourth quarter, raise our hopes, and then proceed to leave our hopes dashed upon the rocks of another ‘come from ahead’ defeat.

Looking back on their 40 year tenure in the NFL, it seems they have a long history of losing 4th quarter leads.  Sometimes it was due to a breakdown in communication.  Other times they faced a virtually unstoppable offense – and against the Seahawks’ Prevent Defense, that was basically everyone.  It has been pointed out that the only thing that particular defensive strategy seems to prevent is a win.  Then, of course, there were times when it all came down to the officials and a blown call.

Duke University football fans can empathize with the 12th Man, judging from all the grumbling over the blown calls that cost them the victory over Miami on the final play of that game.  Trust me, my friends - it will take years to get over the ‘Lateral-Letdown of 2015’.  We know how you feel.  The officials reviewed the play and STILL got the call wrong.  All I can say is, “Welcome to the party, pal!”

The NFL flirted with using Instant Replay to assist officials in making the correct call many times during their history.  Instant Replay in its current form can be traced back to one fateful play.  It all happened in the Meadowlands on December 6, 1998 between the New York Jets and the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks were looking for their first winning season under Coach Dennis Erickson and a wild-card berth in the playoffs.  They entered the game with high hopes, coming off a last-second victory over Tennessee the week before.  The Jets, coached by Bill Parcells, were in first place and looked to solidify their playoff position.  The Hawks held a 31-26 lead with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter.  Shawn Springs successfully defended a fade route intended for Keyshawn Johnson in the corner of the end zone.  Fourth down, 27 seconds left in the game.  Vinny Testaverde plows toward the goal line on a quarterback keeper.  He is hit at the 3 yard line and nearly fumbles.  He dives forward…..TOUCHDOWN! 

Except it wasn’t a touchdown.  CBS commentators Kevin Harlan and Sam Wyche showed clearly through the use of instant replay that Testaverde’s knee was down.  The ball never crossed the goal line.  The touchdown should not have counted.  But it did.  With help from the officials, the Seahawks coughed up another fourth quarter lead and lost to the Jets 32-31.  I mean, COME ON!  The only thing that crossed the plane of the goal line was Vinny’s big fat head.  But I’m not bitter…. 

The Seahawks were eliminated from playoff contention.  It would be another five years before the Seahawks would win a playoff game.  Dennis Erickson, the rising-star head coach with two national championships under his belt was fired. Erickson’s head coaching career was never the same.  The NFL adopted use of Instant Replay to assist officiating the very next season which continues to this day.

It’s amazing what can happen as a result of one blown call.

In business it is important to keep the customer in mind at all times.  This is why you hear so much emphasis in advertising campaigns about customer service.  Companies get into trouble when they view their customers with a ‘helicopter view’, that is a view from above – far removed from the actual customer experience.  Therefore, many businesses work to develop a ground-level view. 

Rather than targeting the client base and working down toward the customer, this ground-level strategy begins with crafting a positive, individual customer experience and works upward from that point to impact the entire client base.   Here’s an example of a company with a helicopter view of their customer experience.  Now, I can’t tell you the name of the company, but it rhymes with Glasses USA.

Their website touts professional and friendly service – stating that, “Our customers always come first… It’s our mission to provide our customers not only with the best custom-made prescription glasses at reasonable prices but also in the fastest time period possible and with the highest quality of service. We will do everything to make you happy and 100% satisfied.”

An associate of mine in need of new glasses thought this offer sounded good and gave them a try.  The company promised delivery in 7-10 days.  10 days later, no glasses.  He tracked his order on the website which informed him it would be another 7-10 days because this was a special order (bi-focals).  He waited another 10 days and, you guessed it – no shipment.  Three different times he waited for his order to be delivered. Each time receiving the same message, shipment delayed 7-10 days.  The frustration intensified.

Over a month past the company’s originally promised delivery date, he called their customer service line.  The automated attendant announced he was caller #26.  Slowly, he advanced in the queue – you are caller 25….24…23… etc.  After waiting on hold for over two hours, he finally arrived at the coveted position as caller number 1 in the queue.  His anticipation of finally speaking to someone about his order was short-lived. The automated phone system clicked and promptly disconnected his call. 

Sound familiar? 

I can recount hundreds of stories just like this one from consumers that I know personally. The immense frustration of dealing with businesses with a helicopter view of customer service grows exponentially with every occurrence.  Invariably, in each case, the person makes it their mission to tell EVERYONE in their circle of influence about the terrible service received.  They also tell everyone online.

Frustration, poor service, negative customer experience and bad reviews; all due to one blown call.

Saying, ‘Customer service is our number one priority’ in your marketing materials is clearly not enough.  You actually have to deliver on that promise.  Even Starbucks had to re-focus in 2008 from a helicopter view back to a ground-level view in order to restore the soul of what made them a great company.  Howard Schultz, in his book, ‘Onward’ states, “Success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become.  The only number that matters is ‘one.’  One customer.  One experience at a time.”

That is how we approach every On-Hold Concepts advertising program we produce. We design each program so you can create a positive, ground-level customer experience one caller at a time.

It is interesting to me that through use of Instant Replay, it is within the NFL’s power to get every single call right.  Yet, they have seen to it that only certain calls can be reviewed.  Coaches are allotted only a couple of opportunities to challenge a bad call. It’s as if NFL Executives actually want the controversy of bad calls looming over their product.  It doesn’t have to be that way with your business. 

First of all, your business doesn’t get the benefit of reviewing a call to change the outcome.  You need to get the call right the first time – every time.  Take a ‘ground-level’ approach to your customers. Invest the time necessary to craft your customer interface system, from call to close, to create a positive personal experience – one customer at a time.  You will not only benefit from a ‘good call’, you will generate the type of instant replay every great company craves.  Repeat business.

Tom McTee, Super-Genius

Tom McTee