The Buzzing Fridge

Hi there,

This is Adrian from Tactical Project Manager writing to you. As always, I hope you are doing fantastic and I want to THANK YOU for being a loyal follower of my blog.

As you’ve probably noticed, some weeks you don’t get an email from me. That’s either because (1) daycare is closed and I have to take care of my 2-y/o daughter, or because I have been racking my brain in search of an inspiring story to share with you, but I just couldn’t come up with anything share-worthy. Well, creativity is something that cannot be forced.

But today ….

I have a good story for you: Hopefully, it’ll help you cut down on your perfectionism (at least a little bit) and you’ll see how an embarrassing mistake can make you a hero in the eyes of a customer.

The Buzzing Fridge

A few years ago, my wife and I went on a vacation and we checked into the hotel.

The hotel had a good standard, but it wasn’t luxurious. Still, our expectations were high.

I inspected the hotel from the outside …

… then from the inside.

Based on what I saw, I would give the hotel an 85% score.

A decent hotel.

Once we were in our room, trying to take a nap, we started to hear this annoying sound coming from the fridge.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bup Bup Bup. Buzzzzzzz. Bup bup bup …

“This is really annoying,” I said to my wife.

“How are we supposed to sleep with that terrible noise?”.

Turning off the fridge wasn’t an option. We wanted to keep some of our food there.

My wife was frustrated:

“We should have taken the other hotel … the one with the higher rating”

Me: “Yeah.”

We had a 4-hour journey behind us, had spent quite a bit of money, and now we couldn’t even sleep because of a broken fridge!

My satisfaction with the hotel dropped to a 70% score.

I called the receptionist.

“Our fridge is broken. It’s making a terrible noise. Please fix it”

The receptionist recorded the issue and promised “to look into the issue”.

When you hear these lines you know that either nothing will be done, or you’ll have to wait for DAYS to get your problem solved. At least that was my expectation at that moment.

But then…

Just 5 minutes after hanging up, the phone rang.

It was the receptionist.

“My colleague Jorge is on the way to your room. He’ll replace the fridge”

“Wow. That was quick”, I said.

The hotel technician walks into the room, and with a few swift moves, he replaces our broken fridge with a new device. The whole issue is resolved within 10 minutes.

My wife and I are stunned.

We didn’t expect that kind of prompt response and solution.

Instantly, my gut-based hotel rating jumped from 70 to 95% satisfaction.

“What a great hotel … “ I said to my wife.


“Let’s go to the beach”

What’s the takeaway from my story?

The high-level lesson is obvious:

When you make a mistake – leading to dissatisfaction on the side of the customer – it’s usually not a big deal. What matters is how you handle the issue.

But there’s more you can learn from the story:

Notice that facing the fridge issue and getting great help made me even more enthusiastic about the hotel than if the incident had not happened at all!

We can turn this insight into a general principle:

When you make a mistake and/or you fail to meet your customer’s expectations, but you take prompt action and fix the problem in a way the customer is delighted, the customer will be even happier to work with you in the future than if there hadn’t been any issue.

In fact, studies have shown that this principle is really true:

People value more that they are being helped than they value perfect service.

You can think about it this way:

  • Perfect and error-free service usually feels quite impersonal because it’s just executing a standard playbook with little or no human interaction.
  • But when there’s an issue, we usually receive personalized and customized help from real human beings. And as human beings, we love that.

Closing the loop to perfectionism …. yes, you should strive to provide the best service to your client, but you don’t always have to worry about every little detail. Mistakes happen! And if you ever screw something up, it’s not the end of the world. Just act quickly, show responsibility, solve the issue and let the customer feel that you really care. That will make you a hero in the customer’s eyes.

Have a wonderful day!



  • Adrian Neumeyer

    Hi! I’m Adrian, founder of Tactical Project Manager and Ex-Project Manager with over ten years of experience in project management. Led large-scale IT implementations and business projects. I started Tactical Project Manager to offer you a straightforward and pragmatic approach to project management, enabling you to lead any project with confidence.

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