The Two Most Dangerous Phrases in the English Language

“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”


“We’ve Always Done it This Way”

by Jeff Lowy, President

Believe it or not, these are two of the most dangerous phrases anyone (especially a GM or Manager) in any organization can ever use.

We all know the myriad of reasons why these phrases should never be used, how maddening they can be, and yet, we hear them all the time. The only one that’s better is “Its company policy.” Just what a customer wants to hear when they’re already angry over something that would likely take a second to fix.

Now, I’m not taking credit for the assessment of these dangerous phases. I recently read an article on LinkedIn that made a lot of sense and pointed this out.

Of course, it’s 2014, and we’re all way too enlightened to even think these things much less actually say them, or think them, right?

Well if we’re being honest, not exactly.  I’m certainly not saying that our customers aren’t willing to change or consider changing.  I am saying that it often takes a long time to get them to listen, and an even longer time for them to evaluate what the change will bring them. Dependent upon the metrics they’re using.  Is it customer service improvement, ROI, differentiation, bottom-line driven or top-line driven?  There are so many questions and every question is worth asking. Sometimes it’s perceived that there’s no actual “problem,” with doing things they way we’ve always done it, so why go through the process of examining where you are currently?

It’s a simple issue really. One hundred years ago, I was told that as a “vendor,” that no hotel would use my company exclusively because it made no sense to “put all their eggs in one basket” and, if I had a contractual exclusive, I would certainly get complacent and service levels would slip.  These clichés kill me.  Especially when coming from upper management.  So you want to be a great client for one (or two) companies, as opposed to a really crummy client for 9 companies?  Who’s going bail you out when it gets tough?  And, complacency?  I don’t think so! My goal is to retain client! I’m likely to work harder for that exclusive client giving me a ton of business than the one who is worried about my “complacency.”

It’s hard to invent a better mousetrap, but the hospitality industry is definitely in need of some better mousetraps.  The Scottsdale market is so challenging to break into that you can’t get an appointment with a decision maker even if you were giving away a free Tesla with every appointment! And moreover, they might even call your competitors to tell them that you’re sniffing around at their account.  That’s really true!

So, I invented a better mousetrap. A better way to deliver a very simple service and in delivering that service or services, I can save the client money, offer them more robust and involving experience overall, generate additional revenue for the hotel (yes, even by saving the customer money) and probably have the customer spend the savings on upgraded anything at the hotel rather than take it home and risk next year’s budget.

Guess what?  The extra money is interesting, and that gets a little attention.  Getting the appointment however, is still not easy. Getting the decision maker to change? Hmmm, well the most interesting response, besides, “We don’t do it that way, and our customers want that service the old way,” is that “you should try it on another hotel first and come back to us after you see how it works and what your track record is.”

I won’t tell you what the service I am exactly referring to is, but I will tell you that almost every hotel has one, some are internal some are outsourced, and it is a concept that has been a part of the hospitality in one way shape or form for dozens of years. Our company can just do it better and for less money because we own our inventory and our creative people are really creative people (like real ones with college degrees) and we’ve made an investment in plant and equipment! Go figure. Or I guess you can avoid all that figuring and just keep doing it the way you’ve always done it, right?

As you look back to the beginning of this blog, note that these are two of the most dangerous phrases in the English language, and will remain so, as long as you’re a manager who is convinced that there’s nothing new in the market that’s worth your time or attention.



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On April 1, 2014