Good, cheap, and fast. In an ideal world, these are the three things we would get from a service provider every time we went out looking for one. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a long-term service like financial planning or a short-term service like getting your leaky faucet fixed. Quality, cost, and speed are the three things people look at when deciding to pay for a service.
But, what if I told you that you can never have all three at one time. You have to choose two.
You can have good and cheap, but it probably won’t get done very fast.
You can have good and fast, but it will likely be very expensive.
Or you can have cheap and fast, but the product will probably be crap.
Why can’t we just get speedy, high-quality service at a low cost?
The Unattainable Triangle of Customer Service
Logistically, businesses cannot offer quality goods at a fraction of the cost and time without there being an inherent flaw somewhere, and this is what’s known as the theory of The Unattainable Triangle.
The Principle of the Unattainable Triangle suggests that of the three points on the triangle, you can only have any given two at once.
If you think about it, you’ll likely have encountered this a lot. Think about the business owner who waits until the last minute to seek financial advice on a huge money move. If they need good advice quickly, they’ll likely pay top dollar for it. The alternatives are potentially more injurious: (1) they wait and pay a lower fee but miss out on the deadline for this important opportunity or (2) they get cheap advice fast, but it turns out to be terrible advice that cripples their business for years to come.
This happens at tax time quite frequently, as well. Individuals or business owners wait until the last minute to get their CPA their tax documents and wonder why the utmost care and attention to detail wasn’t provided 24 hours before the filing deadline.
At the end of the day, higher quality goods delivered quickly and efficiently to customers will always come at a higher price and vice versa.
What Matters Most to You?
Every person values two of these factors over the third. And which side of the business transaction you are on will likely influence your answer.
- The Business Owner Side
If you are a business owner, your task is to uncover which of the two factors your customer base favors. Are they looking for quick, quality service? Then they’ll have to pay top dollar. Or would they prefer quality, lower cost service that may take you a little longer to deliver?
After you identify what your current audience is looking for, then you must ask yourself, do the wants of my customer base align with my values? For example, if your audience is looking for a mid-quality item with a fast turnaround and low price, but this doesn’t align with your values as a business owner, you must ask yourself if it’s worth investing in this mindset and losing sight of your original goals and values to honor this client base. Or, should you consider catering to a different customer base with different expectations that align more closely with how you’d like to do business?
- The Client Side
As an individual, when vetting a service provider, you’ll have to ask yourself the same. Is it more important for you to get high-quality service or quick service? Are you ok with getting a potentially lower quality service for a lower price?
Of course, your answer might vary from service to service. You might be OK with paying a cheaper lawn company that mows every other week as opposed to every single week, but you prefer to pay top dollar for a hair stylist to make sure your heavenly locks aren’t hacked off or accidentally dyed some obscure color of the rainbow.
Unfortunately, the unattainable triangle is unattainable for a reason. Trying to implement all three typically results in bad business. After all, if you have a great product, why would you want to underprice it? Or, if you know you can deliver a quicker turnaround than other providers, why charge the same thing they are?
Price and quality will always be inextricably linked, and that is why you can never have (or offer) all three ideals at once. You must choose which two points on the service triangle mean the most to you, and make your decisions based on those values.