Are you getting the little things right?



Attention to detail.

Serving the customer.

I was at my daughter’s soccer game this morning and one of the other parents had recently purchased furniture for their daughter and although they liked the product, the overall experience was very bad.  What was promised in no later than 8 weeks delivery took over 10 weeks.  When they did deliver, they left out a mirror…it had been ordered and paid for, but didn’t get shipped and they made the family jump through hoops to finally get it done right!  On top of that, the store and the installers all acted like this was business as usual and didn’t offer a single apology!

But here’s the really sad and frustrating part… 

One of the other parents who was listening said “Yeah – I know what you mean, but that’s how all of the the furniture companies are…I’ve gotten to the point where I just expect them to screw up and I’m relieved when it’s only a minor issue.”

Business is hard to come by these days and entire industries have decided that the way they’ll survive is by cutting service, customer focus and attention to detail to the bone (and then some)!  I don’t think it’s possible to save your way to prosperity, but I can guarantee there are a lot of companies trying to do just that!

Here’s the good news!

As a small business owner, you have the ability to be different!  You should constantly be looking for your competitive advantage – something that you’re doing that your competition is unwilling or unable to do for themselves that’s meaningful to the customer. 

For a lot of businesses, that competitive advantage could be as simple as ‘we get the little things right!’.  Think about the stores that everyone loves to shop at…the big ticket example is Nordstrom.  Customer service is part of their demonstrated core values and they have stories and stories about how their staff will go out of their way to make it right if there’s a problem.

What about those non-chain stores that people rave about?  I haven’t been to Nell Hills, but wife loves to go despite it being a drive of over an hour to get there.  Based on what she’s told me, they do an amazing job of selecting seasonal merchandise that their customers enjoy, helping them plan out how pieces might look in their homes and generally making it an overall shopping experience not just going to a store.

Walt Disney realized that the longevity of the Disney theme parks was going to require more than just some rides and a theme…the whole experience needed to be filled with all of those little details that people may not notice at first but really appreciate in the long run.  In an interview Walt once said:

"Give people everything you can give them. Keep the place as clean as you can keep it. Keep it friendly, you know. Make it a real fun place to be…"

At Disney you’re not just an employee, you’re a cast member and when you walk out on the park, you are on stage and performing…even if that performance is pushing a broom.  If you’ve been to a Disney park, you can easily see and feel the difference there versus any other park I’ve ever been to.

What details can you over deliver on?

What do people typically hate about your line of work?  Is there a stereotype of inefficiency?  The cable guy will show up sometime between 8 and 12:00…!

Whatever the little things are that your competitors typically get wrong because they don’t care or can’t be bothered with…that’s where you can step things up and really stand out.  And the beautiful thing about developing a competitive advantage is that you are no longer competing on price.  You will succeed at a premium price with people that appreciate the importance of presentation, everything in it’s place, everything working the way it’s supposed to (or being handled if it’s not).

What are some things you could start doing in your business today that would upgrade the experience you deliver?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on companies that are doing it right – or maybe ideas on things that a lot of companies should be doing?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach