I post on twitter – a lot – and I often find myself making the comment, “Details matter.”  Usually, I make this comment in reference to customer service, or customer experience management, which are two of my passions. But today, as I started thinking about the phrase in a larger context, I realized how much details mean to all of us, every day,  in real life.  Details shape who we are, and how people perceive us.  And in business, it may be the difference between winning, keeping or losing a customer.

Throughout the day, most of us run around thinking about really big issues, like money. Or love. Work. Stress, food, sleep. And then there’s “stuff.”  And I know we’ve all heard the phase: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Heck, there’s even a book written about it.  On some levels, it makes perfect sense. You don’t want details taking over your life, so much that you cease to function.  But I contend that it’s the small stuff that makes us who we are.  That differentiates us from the next person, or the next business.  It’s the small stuff that I remember, and that my friends and family remember, and that your customers will remember.  The devil, as they say, is in the details. (On a side note, I’m on a mission to figure out who “they” is, and why “they” have so much authority and say.  But that’s for a different blahg.)

I have this remarkable friend.  We’ll call her Sharon Swish.  She is a lady who really understands the phrase “details matter.”  She lives it. Last year when I opened my restaurant, Sharon was the first to send a bouquet of flowers with a lovely card, congratulating us on our opening.  When she comes to town, she brings good gifts – gifts that she knows you’ll actually like, because she remembers your favorite colors, that you cook, that you like Razzles, or that your shoe size is 6.5.  OK, I’m not really sure she knows my shoe size.  But she might.  And after she reads this post, I guarantee it will be locked in her steel trap forever.  She has sent me Thank You cards, and these awesome care packages.  She is relentless with the birthday and Christmas cards.  Let’s just say, Sharon remembers.  And she is, therefore, always on MY mind.

By now, you all know that I think Sharon Swish is amazing…so where does that take us?

Well, I contend, that when I set out to write this post, Sharon is the first person that came to mind, because she minds the details.  She has branded herself a thoughtful and engaging friend.  And this ultimately translates into me imploring all of you to think about the details, and to make sure they are not overlooked.  You will be amazed at the kind of results you can have personally and professionally by making sure the details matter.

On a personal level, the details can make us better friends and family.  For instance, when you RSVP to events – and don’t leave people hanging.  Or when you say you are going to call your mom on Sunday, and then call.  Bring a bottle of wine as a hostess gift to a party.  Write that Thank You card you’ve been meaning to send.  These are the kinds of things that make you stand out, that let people know you care, or that they can count on you. Or, perhaps, that they cannot count on you at all.   And this may strike a nerve with a few of you, but even the most minute details matter, like knowing the difference between their, there and they’re.  This may not seem like such a big deal to you, but misuse it on a resume or a cover letter, and you’ll find out what happens.  It can mean the difference between you getting a job or handing it to the next candidate.

In a business context, details matter even more.   In a restaurant setting, for instance, overlooking the details can stop you in your tracks. Make sure your linens are clean and your fixtures are dusted. Your flatware and plateware should be spotless, no exceptions. Your artwork should hang straight and your floor be vacuumed or swept, at all times. Sounds petty, but as a consumer, I am always judging, judging, judging.  And choosing where to spend my dollars.  Last night I walked into one of my favorite pho joints.  I have been there countless times, and have never really given the atmosphere much thought.  This is a little, hole-in-the-wall place, and I don’t expect them to have fine china and crystal place settings. I do expect them to be impeccably clean. On my way out, I decided to hit the ladies room.  And the experience was so dismaying, that I may consider never returning to this restaurant again. The bathroom in any restaurant is a very visible, customer-facing area, and a restaurant should therefore focus on putting their best foot forward there.  To me, a restaurant’s bathroom is a sign of how the rest of the restaurant is kept, especially the places you can’t see.  Like the kitchen.

I realize all of this may sound a little obsessive.  But in the end, I think it’s less about obsession and more about paying attention and following through, and taking the human factor into consideration.  Put your best foot forward, and be judged by what you do, not by what you don’t do.

I still regret, to this day, that I never wrote my Thank You cards for our wedding gifts.  I had what I thought were lots and lots of good reasons.  After planning the whole wedding, interviewing for a new job, taking a lengthy honeymoon, starting the new job, and then moving, I was wiped out.  14 years later, one big detail that still sticks with me as I look back on this time is that I failed to thank all these wonderful people who took the time to pick out a gift for us.  I fear that what they will remember about my wedding is that I did not take the time to acknowledge their thoughtfulness. That may not be true for all, but for the ones who remember…trust me, details matter.

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you for the reminder to be the best you can be. I needed that today.

  2. rwogrin says:

    Excellent post. In our personal life with everything we do, our actions linger long after our presence is gone. Paying attention to the little things speaks volumes about our intent. It is easy to ask the right, caring questions. But if our actions don’t reflect the answer given, then our asking was only about us, not them.
    The same goes for business. Listen, don’t just hear.

    • johnny3000 says:

      i agree that when it comes to business one should always put their best foot forward. however during “off time” i think it’s ok to take a “chill pill”. although that is purely subjective, also i try to live with no regrets about the past however that is easier said than done.

  3. Jen – fantastic post – ancient wisdom applied to modern life and business in ways that are important and meaningful.

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

    Thanks for the reminder. I’m off to write some thank you notes.


    PS – I “met” you through Ty Sullivan of Cafe’ Metro fame.
    PSS – send the thank you notes 14 years later – most people will still love to know you cared.

  4. Huzzy says:

    You, I <3. I cried reading that…thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s