I'm considering cancelling my subscription to the Des Moines Register. It really has nothing to do with the constant shrinking in size due to cost cutting measures. I appreciate the content of the Register. They've been more than favorable to me as an author and speaker. And I do like the feel of newspaper in the morning. It really doesn't have much to do with the fact that there are other outlets available during the day where I can read the paper or get my news. Nope, this crazy cancellation talk boils down to one thing: carrier delivery.
Given Iowa's ever-changing climate, I've asked my carrier (MULTIPLE TIMES) to place our paper on one specific spot on our front porch so we simply have to open our door, reach out, and grab it. She seems to think it's ok to walk half-way up our driveway and fling the paper in the general direction of the door. Having been a newspaper carrier for almost five years in my youth, I learned the first principle of customer service before my teenage years even began: give the customer what they want. Their paper was always consistently placed exactly where they wanted it without fail. So - naive me - I expect the same level of service. When I'm up at 5 in the morning at catch her, and kindly remind her where I want the paper, I get a shrug and a week's worth of compliance before the old habits come back.
Now if you were to ask Mike Wagner about this, he'd probably tell you it's a problem with personal branding. Ask Drew McLellan, he'd build on Mike's issue and tell you there are some marketing lapses with the customers. Phil Gerbyshak would tag it as a gross customer service blunder. Victor Aspengren would suggest a corporate culture flaw. They'd all be right, albeit incomplete. This is also a systems thinking flaw. The Register is doing (more or less) everything right until the paper hits output stage. The last point in the newspaper creation business is delivery, and there's a flaw. When their output becomes my input, somebody is dropping the ball (or at least clumsily flinging it about five to ten feet out of reach in any one direction).
Let's get this crystal clear: If the point at which your output becomes somebody' else's input is not delivered according to the precision of the INPUT's point of view, the output system has failed. I'm sure the reporters, sales people, layout artists, photographers, and editors of the Register would be chagrined to find out that all their hard work is being undermined by one lazy delivery carrier. They are doing their job to ensure a quality output, but the most critical point in the system - when product meets customer - is being delivered with apathetic sloppiness. Coke learned this back in the 1980's. Microsoft is learning it now with Vista. The hand-off point between systems must be delivered from the perspective of the system receiving the output.
I know, I know... it's a simple concept. But one that escapes too many businesses and individuals these days. But if you don't understand it, your customers intuitively do.