You know that phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff ?”  When it comes to your business, forget you ever heard it. 

You almost always have to sweat the small stuff to get a great outcome, and  even mediocre outcomes, and this is especially true where people that you depend on are concerned – customers, employees, and suppliers. When we build products or services we focus on the critical things that make our product unique, buyable, and competitive. These critical things are usually pretty significant to create and manage (if they weren’t you’d have much more competition). Then, to complete our offering, we wrap sales, marketing, service, finance, and operations around those core features but we often forget once those are wrapped around the product they become an essential part of the customers’ experience.

Of course, people won’t buy or use your product if the big important things aren’t there. Paying attention to small things can’t save a product that has major problems in its core offerings.  However, assuming you have a great product, it will be the small things that you forget to design or pay attention to that will lead to your unexplainable attrition of customers (or employees or suppliers). These little things chip away at your customers’ tolerance until they determine that it isn’t worth doing business with you any longer.

At Ceatro we like to refer to this as noiseWhen this noise gets into the ecosystem that is your customers’ experience it distracts them from the value they are receiving from your product. It makes them pause and say things like, “I love this product . . . until I have to call them,” or “It is so frustrating doing business with them” or “I wonder if <competitor> doesn’t make such silly mistakes.”

So, what is ‘small?’

Regardless of its actual or perceived heft, small means anything that seems like an insignificant detail when you are designing the product, the entire ecosystem of products and services, and the experience. These small things could be as large as downloading the purchased software, a loud clicking noise on your blinker, being passed around a call center, a glitchy set up experience, or as small as the tone an agent takes in an email, packaging, or typos on your site (though bad grammar is never small . . .). It could be, and often is, a process that was never designed – billing, returns, warranty, switching out an account manager from an account, downloading upgrades, and so on.

If you map out the experience your customer is having (remember, not the one you think they are having or the one you are offering them) from start to finish you will be able to see the things you think of as critical and all the other things the customer has to think about, decide, or do. The items you haven’t intentional designed will be the ones that hurt you.  Unfortunately (because it is a lot of work) every bit of that experience needs to be designed and managed. Much of it will seem like it is out of your control – a distributor that doesn’t respond to service requests quickly, an airport vendor,  a sports arena, a bad customer reference – but if it impacts your customers’ experience and perception of your company or product you need to try really hard to influence it or compensate for it.

The small stuff we are talking about is so unimportant compared to the value your products bring to your customers that you really shouldn’t let your customers be distracted by them. In many industries there are compelling reasons (the product, the investment, the implementation) to stick with a product even when the noise gets really loud however if your customer does stick with you on those terms you can bet they will be a very hard customer to work with as time goes on.

The great thing about this small stuff is that it can be considered low-hanging fruit in your efforts to improve your customers’ experience, gain more loyalty, and secure revenue. It will take investment and some items, like processes, can be very complex to fix, but it doesn’t usually require any major innovation. It just requires that you uncover it, determine its impact on your customers and your business, redesign it or repair it so that it does not take away from the customers’ experience.

Remember, you did all the work to design a fantastic product and win the customer’s business – don’t let something that should be inconsequential ruin the relationship because you forgot to ‘sweat the small stuff.’