Posts Tagged ‘Customer Experience’

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.


I wish they would invent a hospital disinfectant that smelled like fresh baked cookies.

If you know me well, you’ve probably heard me say this more than once. I am reminded of this notion every time I walk into a hospital, which has been too often as of late.  You see, six weeks ago my big sister had a brain hemorrhage, and I have been on this deeply emotional journey to understand how and why and when and what and what’s next and how I can make it better and why do I feel so helpless, and AAAAAAAGH!?!… But ultimately, I have had to come to grips with the fact that there are no solid answers – just clues and hopes and steps and progress. And love.

So when I walk into a hospital and the smell of sterility hits me, I am deeply aware of the paradox that the hospital smells void of daily life, and yet is filled with people whose daily lives have been completely disrupted. These people are not just numbers or filled hospital beds. These are mothers and daughters, brothers, uncles, best friends, grandmas, even children. Inevitably, my wheels start turning about the impact being in the hospital has on these peoples’ lives.  That the goal of the hospital should be to make the stay of each patient as comfortable as possible, to provide the best care possible, to make a difficult situation easier.

I don’t always find this to be true.

I think the doctors and staff certainly have the best interest of their patients (customers), and good customer service in mind. They do the best they can to make each patient and his or her family feel comfortable, cared for and OK. But ultimately, it’s the insurance companies that rule the roost. Which means the almighty dollar takes precedence above all. The goal for each patient is that they meet certain criteria that will move them to the next level of care, which is generally a lesser level of care.  Read: cheaper.  Patients are shuffled from one floor to the next. From one doctor to the next. From one facility to another.  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “Will insurance even cover this? And for how long?” It always seems the ultimate question is: Who gets to do the billing?

At the highest levels, the patient ceases to exist.

So, all you customer service leaders out there, those of you who are setting the tone for your company, for your team, and ultimately for your customers, I challenge you. I challenge you as you go forward to remember your customers are not just a bottom line figure.  I beg you to keep the customer experience in mind, as you write your missions and values. Understand that your customers have a back story.  They want to be treated with dignity and respect.  And yes, ultimately, they simply want their issues resolved, whether it’s a product return or a fixed brain.

Most importantly, your customers have a name.  My sister is not Patient #555 in room 742 with Insurance ID ABC.  She is Anna Reyna-Gonzales.  And she deserves to smell fresh baked cookies.