Chainsaw and the Art of Amazing
By Lior Arussy
Juskiewicz acquired Gibson Guitar in 1985 he faced a company with a
great heritage but near collapse.
In a recent interview with USA Today, Juskiewicz disclosed one
of the steps he took to turn around the flagging company.
To enforce the concept of product excellence, Juskiewicz took a
faulty guitar destined to be sold as a “second” and in the
presence of the company’s employees, smashed the guitar and declared
that as of that moment, any guitar that would not meet the standard of
a first-class Gibson guitar would not be sold to customers. Juskiewicz
would rather see these guitars destroyed than end up in the hands of
customers. To emphasize
his philosophy, he instructed employees to smash each faulty guitar. Each
week, Juskiewicz would lead his employees by using a chainsaw to
complete the destruction of faulty guitars and ensure that they would
never end up in the hands of customers.
this procedure may sound theatrical and harsh. Finance people will
likely argue that by smashing guitars that can be sold as seconds, the
company loses out on a potential revenue stream. They will argue that
defects in these guitars are rarely noticeable to the naked eye and
will not impede on the customer’s guitar playing.
However, Henry Juskiewicz realized a deeper truth, that however
tempting it may be to capture additional revenue from the sale of
faulty or defective products, in order to deliver amazing customer
experiences, one cannot sell seconds. The
impact on brand image and on the customer experience will ultimately
destroying guitars with a chainsaw may be a painful sight, this action
sends two critical messages. The message to employees is that Gibson
Guitar is a “no-excuses” experience and that anything less than
perfection will not be tolerated.
Product superiority is a competitive and strategic advantage
and selling faulty guitars, however minute those faults may be, erodes
that advantage. Furthermore,
tolerating seconds will lead employees to accept less than the highest
standards will ultimately decline and the customer experience will be
diminished. A subsequent
reduction in profits and decline in customer loyalty will soon follow.
message to customers centered on the company’s high product
standards. By witnessing
product excellence each time customers bought or played a guitar, they
would know that Gibson Guitar provides only the very best. Customer
expectations and experiences would be exceeded and delightful.
By destroying faulty guitars, Juskiewicz was destroying any
attitude of taking customers for granted.
It would make no difference if faulty guitars were offered at a
discount or that these guitars were clearly marked as being faulty.
The brand would be tarnished and Gibson guitars would be identified as
being less than perfect.
commitment to excellence is predicated on offering only first-class
products and never allowing anything less than first-class products to
reach the market. It is
only by having this unwavering commitment to quality that Gibson was
able to deliver excellence and ultimately delight its customers.
short-term view will often lead executives to increase revenue by
selling faulty or second-class products. Many
companies succumb to this temptation and their myriad products can be
purchased in a variety of outlet malls throughout the country. While
revenue may in fact increase, the effect of selling faulty or
second-rate products on the organization’s employees can be
devastating. Employees will view less than the highest standards as
the company norm and their work will ultimately reflect that reality,
leading to greater compromises on product quality.
destroying guitars and giving up revenue from faulty products may be
costly, any organization that is committed to excellence must take
painful measures. Organizations
that seek true long-term loyalty from customers, must deliver that
same level of commitment. No
excuses, including offering discounts will matter.
Organizations are either committed to excellence and the
continual improvement of product and service standards or they are not. Product
and service excellence are more than just buzzwords or nice ideas –
it can serve as a competitive differentiator and strategic advantage.
and service excellence can also serve as a means to charge and obtain
a higher price for products and services. At Gibson, prices had been
declining twenty percent a year and to the astonishment of employees,
Juskiewicz not only raised prices, in some cases, he doubled them.
Yet even with dramatically increased prices, volume continued
to increase. By offering a
product that delighted customers, Gibson was able to significantly
raise prices and have customers reaffirm their conviction in the value
delivered by their premium priced products.
Juskiewicz stated that the chainsaw process continues this very day,
he points out that the pile of broken guitars is much smaller.
By sending the message that only perfection would be accepted,
Juskiewicz has not only raised the quality of his company’s guitars,
but the production and service standards of his employees.
After all, no employee wants to see the result of laborious
efforts being destroyed by a chainsaw.
Yet Juskiewicz knew that employing harsh and theatrical
measures were necessary to shake up his company.
By keeping a watchful eye over the program, he made sure that
his company’s commitment to perfection would remain intact. As
it is with all commitments, if dedication does not go up, it naturally
goes down. This is a
compromise that no company can afford to make.
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