Mediocrity: the quality of being not very good

Mediocrity has seeped into our lives like water into a sponge, and it is becoming the norm by which we judge all things in our daily lives. If one of the usual answers to facts that we hear is “That’s awesome!”, then what shall we say when something truly awe inspiring happens?

Many of us have had our expectations blunted by mediocrity. We have come to expect bland service in restaurants, average care in hotels, mediocrity at its zenith from government offices and indifference from most public servants.

Indeed, it has become a high point in our days when someone goes out of his or her way to give you outstanding service. It is something that is worthy of mention to colleagues and friends, something that is truly ‘awesome’ when compared to the norm of mediocrity surrounding us. Maybe that is why so many use that word. Personally I would prefer ‘unusual’, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, although the problem stems from the fact that we expect mediocrity and are so surprised when we actually receive good service.

Mediocrity has seeped into our daily lives to such an extent that the vast majority of us take it as a normal part of our day. Furthermore, mediocrity is the standard by which we judge things and therefore we do not react against it, we do not complain the way we should. In better days we voted with our feet and no longer patronised places that gave us bad service, but today you can do that and then go on to the next mediocre place….. expecting no better.

Am I being overly pessimistic? Am I exaggerating? Perhaps, but my problem is that I believe we are all sliding towards a world where we are actually satisfied with mediocrity, and pleasantly surprised when it is ‘just’ mediocre service and not downright bad service we encounter.

In almost every service oriented business the way the management have seen fit to fight mediocrity is by advertising themselves as giving better service, giving unique service and catering to your individuality on a personal basis. As with the famous CNN piece that shows an apple and the voice over says, as I recall.. “This is an apple, many will try to tell you it is a banana, and hope that if they tell you enough times you will believe it is a banana…….but it is an apple. Facts count.”

They believe that if you are told enough times that you are or will be getting good or great service when you use their services. But telling you is not enough. I guess that some of the big corporations know this and try to capture business by upping their loyalty programs and promising more rewards.
I know, as an example, that nearly all of us check the online reputation of hotels and restaurants before we decide which to use, but oftentimes our decision is based as much on price as it is on reputation. The way these businesses combat mediocrity is to lower their prices to capture traffic and business. It is a sure-fire way to sink slowly into oblivion.
Jason Wilson, in his article in the Washington Post on eating, drinking and sleeping at Trump hotels, , suggests that the main theme that occurred to him was one of mediocrity across the brand. All the dazzle, gold and declarations of the ‘best’ could not hide the fact that mediocrity ruled his experiences during his travels at the brand.

But what are we to do to get back to good service and expectations of good experience? I do not have the answers to that, but I do believe that it starts with education. If you educate drivers when they are young and in the process of learning that safe driving includes being patient and courteous to your fellow drivers, I am sure that there would be less incidents, deaths and injuries on the roads.

Perhaps it is the same with mediocrity. Perhaps if we trained our staff better, helped them to become more patient with customers, and helped them to understand expectations better we would see an improvement in service. Of course to do that we need to nurture our staff and take care of them in the right way so as to fulfill their expectations of their employers.
I believe that the millennial generation is perhaps the one that will jumpstart this grass roots movement to lift us out of mediocrity. They care about important values more than the previous generations. They care about expectations and what they want to see and experience during their travels and in daily lives.

I hope that we can all stop the slide towards mediocrity and return to good service. Wouldn’t that be nice?