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The Last Five Percent

On a recent morning, I stopped at my local bakery-café for breakfast. I ordered the same breakfast sandwich I order almost every time I am in there. When I received my order, my wife caught me just staring at my plate.

ECN 042015_COL_The Last Five Percent - sandwich“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It’s the last 5 percent,” I said.

My sandwich was on the plate, but it was spread out across the plate. The contents of the sandwich looked like they had been tossed from a distance toward the bottom of the bagel, and mostly missed their target. The top half of the bagel was mostly off the rest of the contents of the plate.

The sandwich was hot, it had all the correct ingredients, but the way they were scattered across the plate showed a real lack of concern for presentation. I actually considered taking my plate and asking to speak to the manager. Not to complain or to berate the person preparing the sandwich, but to offer a bit of advice about completing the final details of the project – in this case the presentation of the sandwich on my plate.

Instead, I just re-assembled my sandwich and ate it. But it still bugged me…

I wonder how many of my clients are ‘just re-assembling the sandwich’ when something we do misses the mark. How often do we miss those last few details of a project that would create strong loyalty, and instead leave our clients ‘bugged’? How often can you leave your client bugged before they decide not to be a client anymore?

What happens when the client asks for a specific quote on a specific list of services and we miss one on the estimate? Or they ask for specific elements to be included in a design and we show them something other than what they ask for?

What happens when the set up print for the new exhibit has the panel numbers mislabeled and the I&D team doesn’t figure it out until they’re well into the install and have to take it apart to fix it? Or the pack list for the job indicated that the set up prints are in crate five, when at the last minute they were tossed into crate two – near the bottom, underneath a pile of exhibit parts?

What do you do when the new fabric graphic that was just ordered at the last minute was not test fit before shipping and ends up a couple inches too long for the SEG frame it needs to fit into?

We’ve all had these things – and many similar issues – happen to us and our clients. And in many cases they occur when we are busy, pushing lots of projects through our businesses. It can be easy to miss the small things. But they are also easily preventable. And they can be so frustrating when we don’t catch them.

It really is just that last 5 percent: Review that estimate one more time before sending it. Compare that design to the requirements before presenting it. Check the set-up print against the actual labeled parts. Review the pack list before placing the prints in a crate. Test fit the fabric.

So why do we miss these little things so often?

Many would argue that getting 95 percent of the project correct is an incredible thing. We should be proud of our success. Maybe so. But I know if we focus on that last 5 percent, rather than just taking a little longer to get it right, we’ll save all the time and aggravation from when we have to correct mishaps in the field – either when presenting in our clients offices or setting up on the show floor. I suspect if you analyzed it, we spend a lot more than 5 percent correcting the errors than if we had just spent a little more time to get it 100 percent correct the first time.

I also know that the last 5 percent is what takes our clients from being ‘satisfied’ to being outrageously loyal. It takes our clients from “Yeah, they’re good. They miss a few things now and then, but for the most part they do well” to “These guys are incredible; they nail it every time. I can’t imagine working with anyone else!”

I want my clients to be the latter. And as a client and consumer myself, I also want to be that satisfied customer. I want my sandwich all together in one place on the plate.

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the trade show industry over 30 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner at Reveal, a trade show marketing firm. He can be reached at jobermeyer@revealexhibits.com.

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