Photo by Fernando Mafra

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff...?

Every business school teaches future managers about delegation. The conventional wisdom is that a serious manager needs to focus on the big picture. He or she shouldn’t be sweating over small issues like customer complaints or comments.

But is this conventional view really fit for purpose in the present business environment? Leaders like Elon Musk don’t seem to think so. All week Musk is building rockets, batteries, and electric cars then at the weekend you can often see him engaging in long online exchanges with his customers. Elon Musk uses Twitter to gather ideas from his customers and he has often taken an idea and put it immediately into production – how long would it take to get an idea implemented if you wrote an email to the boss of a regular car manufacturer?

This is an example that some major brands are following. In the business journal Forbes, customer experience expert Shep Hyken recently detailed how Volkswagen in Australia shook up their entire customer service strategy by focusing on small, personal interactions. VW wanted to create more moments where individual customers would say ‘wow!’

It doesn’t take a lot to achieve this, but you need to be consistent. In the VW example they looked at their benchmark for adequate service and raised the bar by 1%. Just 1% above satisfactory is enough to make many of your customers notice that you are trying harder to deliver great service.

It sounds extremely modest. A 1% improvement shouldn’t really even be noticeable, but as Shep observes, the real difference is the change in attitude at all levels of the organisation. If you empower everyone, from the CEO to the janitor, with a mission to make at least one customer say ‘wow’ every single day then you are shifting the entire service ethos of the company to one that focuses on trying to both help and impress your customers.

Customer requests and complaints may seem small, but if the CEO takes the time to answer one question directly each day then that is not only going to make that individual customer say ‘wow’, it will be noticed by everyone in the company. When Elon Musk talks openly to his customers about how to improve Tesla cars, how do you think that makes everyone else in the company behave?

Don’t sweat the small stuff may be what they taught you on your MBA course, but sometimes the small stuff is what defines your entire company.