When Good Things Go Bad

Fonz_jumping_the_shark You know it when you see it. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on…it’s all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it “Jumping the Shark.” From Jump the Shark by Jon Hein.   


My son, Christopher, first told me about the expression, “jumping the shark,” born from the ramblings of five college guys rehashing favorite "classic" TV shows. The question emerged, "At what point did you know your favorite show was going downhill?" When they got to Happy Days, Sean Connelly said, ‘That’s easy. It was when Fonzie jumped the shark.’


Fans of the show may remember that "moment on Happy Days when Fonzie, fully clad in his leather jacket while on water skis, literally jumps over a shark in the Pacific Ocean. Anyone who was watching knew that very instant that the show would never be the same.” The phrase stuck. No explanation needed.


Then it occurred to me there are a number of ways a successful business can "jump the shark," too. Such as:

·     Cutting expenses at the cost of the customer experience.

·     Neglecting to communicate core values to staff, so they can communicate them to the customers.

·     Failure to have core values in the first place.

·     Seeing through the eyes of the shareholders, instead of the eyes of the customer.

·     Growing content, complacent – and compromised.


So, how do you keep from jumping the shark? By staying in close communication with your customers.

·     Offer an open forum on your Web site for customers to “chat” with each other.

·     Start a company blog where your customers can make comments.

·     Provide multiple, safe ways for your customers to tell you their needs.

·     Use self-assessment tools to uncover business strengths and weaknesses.


For the ten “touchpoints” considered most important to customers, go to the Customer Experience Index. My colleagues have correctly pointed out that the Index is too subjective for use as a self-assessment tool, but if you’re brave enough, you could hand a copy to your customers and let them fill in your score anonymously. It would be an opportunity to see your business through your customer's eyes.


Another way to avoid shark-jumping is by taking a few moments to browse the entries on the Wizard of Ads, Portal of American Small Business. You’ll quickly find plenty of great ideas for keeping your business fresh and alive. After all, you don’t want to become shark bait, do you?