Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Extra Mile or The Last Mile?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Which is more important: the last mile or the extra mile?

A couple months ago, I wrote about first and last impressions, posing a similar question there:  which is more important?

Today I'm wondering about the last mile and the extra mile. Which one should you focus on more? Which is more impactful to the customer experience? Which one creates raving fans? Or, at least, happy customers?

Let's start with some definitions.

What do we mean by "the extra mile?" According to FreeDictionary.com, to go the extra mile means: to try harder to please someone or to get the task done correctly; to do more than one is required to do to reach a goal; to make more effort than is expected of you. Of course, we knew that; we talk about that all the time when we describe what companies do to delight or to deliver a superior customer experience. Stan Phelps gives us a lot of examples of how great companies consistently go the extra mile for their customers and their employees.

What about "the last mile?" This is a phrase mentioned much less often in our world; hence, my question, is it as important as the extra mile? According to Investopedia, the last mile is: a phrase used in the telecommunications and technology industries to describe the technologies and processes used to connect the end customer to a communications network. I suppose I'll equate this to doing it right, getting it there. Or quite simply, delivering at the moment of fulfillment, as in, making sure customers get what they expected to get. So, in the telecom industry example, the phone lines come into my home, and I can make and receive calls. There's no delight there. It works; it just does what it's supposed to do. I'm happy.

Do you see my dilemma?

There are those who argue that companies don't need to put forth the extra effort - or go the extra mile - to delight, that they should simply spend more time just getting things right. In the HBR article, Stop Trying to Delight Customers, the authors state:

According to conventional wisdom, customers are more loyal to firms that go above and beyond. But our research shows that exceeding their expectations during service interactions (for example, by offering a refund, a free product, or a free service such as expedited shipping) makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs.

Does that then support focusing on the last mile?

Forrester has stated that there are three requirements of a great customer experience; it must be...
  • enjoyable
  • easy
  • effective
So, it's enjoyable; customer effort is low; and it meets your needs.

Does that also support focusing on the last mile? Or both?

I have to draw some parallels to my first/last impression post, in which I said: You won't get one without the other. There won't be a last impression if you don't get the first impression right. You know what you need to do.

Which is most important? Well, I think you can't have one without the other. You can't go the extra mile if you haven't completed the last mile.

You know what you need to do.

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. -Roger Staubach


  1. Hi Annette,
    For me, it's simple....completing the last mile first time and every time gives you the opportunity to go the extra mile. So, I guess I agree with you :)


  2. I'm with Adrian

    For most organisations getting the last mile right would be a fabulous achievement. First things first.

    1. Sadly, this alone is a challenge for too many.

  3. Here is another way to look at it....I'd suggest that going the extra mile is more important than the last mile as client's expectations and needs change so rapidly and frequently that there is no defined last mile. You have to go the extra mile to stay in lock step with your client as the project/engagement evolves. It's kind of an agile way of looking at your "miles".

    1. Ah, interesting perspective, Eric. I agree that expectations change rapidly. I like the agile approach... thanks for your thoughts on this.

  4. I think having to go the last mile is a given. Without that a business can't really survive. Going the last mile will result in satisfied customers. However going the extra mile is what leads to customer delight and longer lasting relationships, in my opinion.

  5. I think it's about doing both. As long as you continue to do it and work with your customers. It's about working together and both looking for that long term benefit. You work hard to Attract, Engage, Choose, Commit and Retain customers - I've likened it to being married - In fact I'm on a 25 year retention plan with Mrs H at the moment!

    I think describing it this way for some helps grasp the conext of the customer journey and how mapping it out is so important.

    There's a bit on our website about it http://www.wrightsmarketing.co.uk/blog/relationship.html

    1. Thanks, Mike... and congrats on the 25 years! Thanks for sharing that post, as well.

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