The Paradox of Excellence: How Great Performance Can Kill Your Business

by David Mosby and Michael Weissman

When a company consistently provides excellent service it can become “invisible” to the client until something goes wrong. This book illustrates the problem through a parable about a trucking company. Their largest and most profitable customer has given notice to terminate their contract due to a botched delivery. Management is shocked, as there had been no previous problems with this client over the many years they have done business together.

“The paradox of excellence is this: As our performance improves, we become more invisible to our customers—to everything but bad news. As a consequence, customers lose sight of the true value we deliver because they forget the problems we eliminate.”

The authors’ solution is “to continuously reinforce your distinguishing value in a socially acceptable manner… Emphasize the long-term… When a problem does emerge, customers will see it as an anomaly.” Part Two of the book includes an overview of the concept, a self-assessment questionnaire, and a “Roadmap for Success.” The roadmap includes five steps: “Discover the expectations; define and select your distinguishing value; select the metrics to be made visible…; uncover the best source of data to use; deliver the information needed to keep your value in the minds of your customers and your employees.”

Of course this presumes your company’s performance is indeed excellent. Somehow, I don’t think continuously reminding your customers about your mediocrity is going to increase retention.

Mosby, David, and Michael Weissman. The Paradox of Excellence: How Great Performance Can Kill Your Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005. Buy from

One thought on “The Paradox of Excellence

  1. I don’t care how consistently good your company’s performance is, something is bound to go wrong at some point. How a company deals with its customers when things go wrong is the true measure of their greatness — and how likely they are to retain their loyal customers.

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