Leadership Follies: Believing the Chameleon Fallacy


One of the worst things that you can do as a service organization is to try to be all things to all people. There is nothing worse than when, as a customer, you have an expectation of service that cannot be delivered by the service provider.

Is it  better to turn away business than it is to promise something and not deliver?

On a recent vacation, my wife and went to the tropics. We were told by the resort that they would be able to accommodate my wife’s dietary restrictions. However, we found that not only was that wrong but that they were actually incapable of providing a level of service that they had promised.

The Anti-Chameleon

One of the best ways to avoid having this happen is to be clear about “who you are” and  the type of customer that you are looking to service as a provider.

  • Ritz Carlton knows it has a certain clientele, but it will never be the kind of hotel that masses will be able to afford. That is actually not only okay with Ritz Carlton, but it is that kind of aura that they wish to project.
  • Southwest Airlines do not want to be the airline of the “seat that folds into a cocoon and five-star meal” travelers. They want to cater to cost conscious travelers.
  • Apple does not market to people that want to tinker, enhance, and fix their computers.

There are thousands of great examples of successful companies that know who they are, and the kind of customer they want to serve.

Avoiding the Chameleon Fallacy

There are few simple guidelines that will help to avoid the pitfall of being all things to all people or the “Chameleon Fallacy:”

1. Be a choosy provider, be selective.

Once you are clear about the type of company that you are, and the type of clientele that you’re looking to service, it is very important to be as strict as possible with the type of customers that you can’t service moving forward. 

It is better to be up front that your organization can not help a potential customer than it is to frustrate them. Giving them names of alternatives, or pointing them in a direction in a polite and professional manner, will gain you “points” and likely engender a recommendation from the customer you couldn’t service.

People like honesty.

2Correct mistakes quickly:

Once you’re clear about the kind of customer you want to provide service for, provide that service impeccably. Make sure that the customer is ultimately satisfied.

Customers are never looking for perfection, but they are always looking for opportunities to point out mistakes. Customers look to see if providers can show a real opportunity to get a customer for life.

“Take swift action the moment you determine a mistake has been made. Contact your customer immediately, by phone/email/fax, informing him/her of the error and being truthful about what happened. If you messed up, admit it, apologize profusely and offer to make things right. – Linda Nagamine

3. Follow up

Make sure that you follow up with your customers once they have completed using your service.

They are the most able to give you feedback good or bad.

This will enable you to improve your service. If you implement a suggestion that is given to you by a current or former customer, it will solidify their belief  that they are part of the brand.

If you make sure you don’t try to be a chameleon, you will set your organization apart. This will help make you sought out by the customers you want to serve.

Not only that, but your business will be less stressful, more fun, and much more profitable!

Does your organization try to be all things to all people?  What could you do to avoid the Chameleon Fallacy?  I’d love to hear your stories, thoughts and blinding flashes of insight!


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Anil Saxena
 is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

Image Sources: youngagropreneur.files.wordpress.com


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