The Customer Is Always Right

Most people agree the title of this column is a solid principle on which to run a company. However, those of us who have worked in customer service might believe this is the right approach, but not universal. There are times customers are not only wrong but cause so much additional work they are harmful. Let me give you an example.

When I was in college, I worked at a large bank, and I can’t count the number of times people deposited a large check and demanded access to thousands of dollars instantly. I knew things could get heated when I had to tell them that the bank would put a hold on that money for seven days. “Hold?” they’d scream. “That is my money!” Then came the uncomfortable discussion that the bank needs to ensure it is a valid deposit before it releases the money.

This might seem like an unfavorable customer-service policy, but it is necessary to protect the bank from small percentage of people who might take advantage of it if that policy were not in place. You can imagine how much fraud would exist if people could deposit a private check for $5,000 and gain immediate access to that money. Unfortunately, that kind of policy reflects a fundamental flaw in human behavior, not customer service.

Radio and television pioneer David Sarnoff said, “Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in men.” Sarnoff might have known a thing or two about what can happen in racing. When we see the rapid development of cars during the launch of a new class, it always amazes me the number of tricks people come up with that I never even considered when writing a rule set. We all know how rules need to be adjusted during the first two years of launch to lock down the “creativity.” It boils down to a small percentage of people who realize they can take advantage of something and dive right in, knowing that is not the intent of the rule.

We are incredibly blessed that racers are some of the best people on earth. There is a specific commonality among us that creates a strong bond. What else can bring people closer together than racing 2 inches apart at 100-plus mph? Everyone needs a high level of training to gain a level of experience to become part of the group. Racers consider their crew and competitors family, and NASA considers our members the foundation of one large motorsports family.

Each year we spend hundreds of hours in rules review to lock down loopholes, or the items that have brought out “the worst in men.” The amount of resources we put forward to ensure fairness is staggering. All the time, energy, and money is meant to keep the few in line where competition has brought out the worst in them, and quickly ruins the great experience of others. Perhaps I am too principled, but what kind of person wants to win anything by cheating? Cheating an extended family member, no less, is beyond my comprehension!

We work so hard to provide a unique environment that allows people the privilege to call themselves “racers.” It’s that privilege for which so many NASA staff and officials work very hard to deliver a top-notch experience. If you ever find yourself letting the competition bring our the “worst in you,” give it a moment of thought, and ask yourself if you would want another one of your racing family members to do the same to you. The Golden Rule is my guiding mantra and that is how I believe our company should run as well. We try to do right by everyone involved in NASA and we hope you will too.

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