“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good bye”
Don Draper (a.k.a. Jon Hamm) and David Letterman both said goodbye this week in the highly publicized final episodes of television’s Mad Men and The Late Show. Unlike the final episodes of Seinfeld and The Sopranos, both of these farewells were well received and judged suitable wrap-ups of their respective series.
Final episodes take on significant importance in the television world. Unlike Hollywood, which wrings as much box office as possible out of weaker and weaker sequels to a popular movie franchise until they die a painful death in bad reviews and viewer abandonment, television puts a lot of thought and concern into the final episodes of its popular series, heaping praise on those that do it well, such as The Bob Newhart Show and M*A*S*H, and scorn on those whose leaving doesn’t seem to measure up, think St. Elsewhere, and Lost.
I guess the aim of these TV final episodes is twofold: wrap up story line loose ends and leave viewers with a generally good feeling about how things worked out. Of course, we don’t really know the people in these programs, they’re not part of our real lives, but the time we spend in their worlds seems to create some kind of short-term bond, and if you have to leave people you’ve enjoyed being with, you want the parting to conclude on a satisfying note.
The kind of vicarious relationships we have with our favorite television characters are, in a way, similar to many, if not most, of our business relationships these days. While we work on a job with a customer, we are part of their world, learning about what’s important to them, understanding their needs and wants (and demands), and establishing a short-term bond that generally ends when the work is done.
This is particularly true in today’s industry, where long customer relationships are few and far between and much of our work relationship is handled electronically, without ever seeing or perhaps even talking to the customer.
Consequently, virtually every job we do could be a finale of sorts, could be the customer’s last―and lasting―impression of who we are and how we operate. And our best chance to bring that customer back, and encourage him to speak well of us to others, is to put as much care into every job so that, like those TV series, we are trying to end, if end we must, on a high note.
Tie up the loose ends―cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’, meet every expectation, communicate clearly and regularly, deliver on what you have promised from quality to completion date, ship the job so that it arrives in perfect condition.
And leave the customer with a good feeling about the relationship―answer questions promptly, offer money- or time-saving suggestions proactively, eliminate any production or billing “surprises,” and always be unfailingly courteous and respectful.
In show business, the aim is always “to leave them wanting more.” In business, we want “to leave them wanting to come back.” Treat every job as if it was your last and best chance to impress your customer, because it very well might be. And then, maybe, it just won’t be after all.