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Who makes the best sprinkler in the world?

Some years ago we were in a taxi being driven from Newark airport to Allentown. Our journey took us past a company that boasted a large sign that said it made the best sprinklers in the world. As a couple of Brits travelling in America we found this interesting and commented to our driver that a statement as bold as that would not be allowed in the UK. It is almost impossible for any company to say that they make something that is the best in the world. Has every other manufacturers’ sprinklers been examined and on what criteria? And who is to say that something is the best in the world – should it be the manufacturer, the customers or maybe an independent judge?

The statement didn't worry our American driver. She made the point that if the company didn't say they were the best in the world, who would? And isn't it up to customers to accept or deny this?

Over the subsequent years we have spent a good deal of our working life looking at what makes excellent customer experience. We have realised that despite all the efforts of the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA polices ads in the UK) companies can get away with a good deal of "quality exaggeration". There may be limits to what a company can say in an advert but sales teams, blogs and informal chat can say almost anything and get away with it.

Take for example George Santos. Mr Santos is a New York Republican congressman who, when seeking election, exaggerated some of his credentials. He claimed to be Jewish, to have been a volleyball star, to be an alumnus of Goldman Sachs and to have a tidy sum of $11 million to his name. None of this appears to be true but that did not stop him promoting these credentials and being elected. A little bit of "résumé embellishment" seems to be acceptable, at least to some people.

Why is it then that human beings are not only capable of being duped but almost want to be? If we buy a sprinkler from a company that says it makes the best sprinklers in the world, it makes us feel good. Almost certainly the sprinklers are pretty good anyway and as long as they do the job, we can bask in the belief that we have chosen the best.

This is not giving you or anyone sanction to exaggerate your offer. There is an old saying that it is better to "undersell and over prove". This strategy will take longer to deliver success but in the world of customer experience it is the long run that we seek. We are not looking for quick wins or short-term gains. We are looking for loyalty and that is built up in small spoonfuls time after time after time.


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