The importance of the ‘double check’

Maxim #17
Errors kill credibility

Nothing damages someone’s professional credibility as quickly as an error, even a minor one. While a simple calculation error or typo can seem trivial in the scheme of things, it implants doubt into your customer’s mind. The customer now thinks if this person can make these simple errors, they can also make larger errors.

Errors occur for many reasons (e.g. ignorance, lack of time, poor planning). The most common errors we see are in spreadsheets and written communications. Spreadsheets can be deceiving because they print out or display very professionally and can hide simple calculation errors. Careless manipulation of formulas can cause errors that are difficult to visually detect. In written communications you need to be careful about grammar, spelling errors that miss detection by spell checker programs due to multiple meanings and basic sentence structure.

No matter the root cause, errors suggest a lack of caring or attention. Conversely, people notice attention to detail. Even in areas that are seemingly less significant, such as how products are packaged. Apple is well known for believing that packaging is part of the customer experience and reflects on the product itself. It pays great care and attention to the design and finish of its product packaging (and in fact the retail environment in which it places its products). The same “customer experience” holds true for presentations and report slides. Slides that are inconsistent in terms of colors or fonts, or are visually confusing, reflect poorly on the content of the message itself. Typos and graphic confusion can best be thought of as “visual errors”. People sometimes dismiss paying too much attention to the “look” of a presentation by claiming that it’s the substance that is important. This ignores the connections people make between content and visual quality.

To help avoid casual errors, always double-check your work before publishing or sending. For spreadsheets always do some random “sanity checks” on your work by making sure columns and rows actually add up like they are intended to. For presentations, if something looks somehow awkward or inconsistent, change it – it’s not “good enough”.