Amazing Cultures Have People That Notice The Little Things
Astonishing cultures are based on a simple premise; not on a complicated formula, but on an insight into a special human element.
Sustainable cultures have basic human axioms that people commit to. Zappos is an excellent example of this. Their culture, led by Tony Hsieh, is based on the premise that if you “deliver happiness” you will garner a loyal employee and customer base that will stand the test of time.
Happiness. A simple concept but one that resonates with every human being. Everyone gets it and if employees feel it and are able to deliver it to customers, all is good.
Employees are actively engaged in the organization and customers keep buying. Cool.
And profitable. Amazon paid $900 million for the company. Yes, they have a good business model, but without the “Delivering Happiness” culture they wouldn’t be anything special that would stand apart from the crowd.
The little things
Another simple and compelling idea that organizations should pay attention to as they think about their culture is “take care of the little things” (and there won’t be any big things to worry about).
It’s based on the human premise that it’s always the little things people seem to notice and get annoyed about.
— The dust ball remaining in the corner after the professional cleaners “finished” their job.
— The grease on the steering wheel after they have finished servicing your SUV.
— The soiled seats on the aircraft.
— The lipstick residue on the “clean” wine glass.
— The dirty marks on your cupboard door after the hinges have been replaced.
— The service person who didn’t remove their shoes when entering your home.
— The absence of free wifi on the cruise you spent $10,000 on.
These are the things that we expect NOT to happen. They represent the basics of business and we expect them to be performed without a flaw. But when things break down, we are emotionally caught up in the event and often behave in a way that doesn’t reflect who we really are. We rant at an employee over the dust ball. It’s a small issue and shouldn’t matter, but it does.
These are the things that indicate an organization is not concerned to do what’s necessary to finish the job completely for us.
They want to get it done and move on to the next customer — the Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am culture.
They notice everything
These actions should be taken to implement strong “little things matter” values.
— “THEY NOTICE EVERYTHING” posters should be plastered about the workplace to remind employees to take care of the little things for not only customers but their fellow employees.
— Leaders should monitor every nook and cranny of the organization to pick up on and change “MAYBE THEY WON’T NOTICE” attitudes and behavior.
— If customer surveys don’t already have questions relating to how well the little things are performed, add them. And include write-in comments to obtain a more personal customer perspective on what needs to be addressed.
— Include “little things” as part of the internal quality program. If little things aren’t taken care of on the inside among employee groups it won’t happen on the outside with customers. Set objectives and institute a measurement system between internal customer-supplier groups to track performance.
— Get input from frontline employees on the little things that are regularly missed and treat these as priorities for resolution. They know what the major issues are; listen to them.
— Hold the management team in every function of the organization accountable for improving how well the little things are taken care of. Make it part of their annual performance and bonus plan.
Attention to detail is a culture that leads to sustainable competitive advantage because most organizations don’t have — or don’t desire to have — the competency.
They don’t understand the little things aren’t little at all, they’re HUGE and can make the difference between success and failure.
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.
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