When I was in combat training years ago, the proper use of combat weapons was obviously on the curriculum. Soldiers spent hours on a rifle range, improving their accuracy. They learned to dissemble a weapon in seconds blindfolded because that might be required for real under cover of darkness. Soldiers learned to treat their weapons with respect, care, and most importantly, with safety. One expression used by instructors was, “Combat is not the place for spray and pray.” It meant never putting your weapon on automatic, firing indiscriminately at the enemy, and hoping for the best. It meant always using the discipline of focus, intention, and precision.

Lately, I have been getting more than my share of “spray and pray” customer experiences. My carefully spoken and repeated order at a fast-food restaurant gets turned into careless and inaccurate delivery. Employees seem to believe I am not likely to discover their careless, uncaring error until I am way down the road. Online vendors who claim to have “reviewed my website” make offers that telegraph they are using an email list with no regard for my reality. Retailers push what they want to sell without determining if there is a need. Service providers make idle promises with zero intention of keeping them.

Customers today get great service experiences in their lives, so they know excellent service is possible. It means poor service stands out in a stark and obvious way. Customers have far more choices than ever, and your competitors make switching easy and inexpensive. So, unless you are the only game in the county, that uncaring, “just checking a box” frontline server may dramatically reduce your market share. Without customers, your business is doomed. Have you seen Borders, A&P, Luby’s, or Toy R Us lately? Take a look at how Belk, Lord & Taylor, Stein Mart, and Chuck E. Cheese are doing these days.

Only hire people with a passion for service and an eagerness to do well, not just a warm body looking for extra spending money. Teach your frontline the importance of focus, intention, and precision. Incent them to create a service masterpiece every time instead of a piece of junk. Be a role model of great service by treating them like your most valuable customers. Using “spray and pray” might get them through the day, but it will ultimately leave your business a casualty of competitors eager to take you out.