Death by a Thousand “Little Mistakes” - Converging 360
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Death by a Thousand “Little Mistakes”

Paying attention to the details is good business analysis

How many little mistakes do you see?
I open the newspaper in the morning and see a typo. I open my email and see a grammatical error. I go to a web site and a menu button doesn’t work. How many “little mistakes” do you see in a day? Corporations are pushing employees to work faster and get products to market sooner. Is this agile or is this sloppy? Many companies sacrifice analysis and attention to detail to increase revenue but it won’t pay off in the long run.

It is primarily large companies who “kill” their customers with these “little” mistakes. Startup entrepreneurs treat each customer like a valued friend. They produce every product with the highest quality and never compromise on service. If a startup doesn’t pay attention to details, they won’t be around long. Startups that pay attention to details are successful and grow. Unfortunately at some point, the startup begins taking its customers for granted and starts making mistakes. Of course, no organization is perfect but how the organization reacts to “little” mistakes is important. Is there an effort to find the cause or do we just ignore them?

We are too busy to worry about a few small mistakes

Sometimes there is so much demand for your products that you can’t worry about a few unhappy customers – right? Wrong. Customers don’t care if you are busy. They expect you to handle your increased workload and continue providing quality products and service. Have you noticed that many people in the U.S. are unhappy with their cable TV and phone service providers? One provider has admitted this in their TV commercials in a clever marketing campaign. Cable TV providers have plenty of demand and often operate as a monopoly for a region. But, how long will their success continue? More and more people are dropping their cable, using a streaming service or watching entertainment on their PCs. Customers will move towards companies who treat them well and pay attention to the little things.

 How to fix little mistakes?

To fix these little mistakes you first have to know about them. Are companies aware of how many mistakes they are making? Many companies make it difficult for customers to give feedback. Few companies encourage direct calls or email messages from customers. Satisfaction surveys are designed to only ask limited questions and rarely offer an open text box to allow for unique feedback. (Many airline surveys ask about their employees but never ask you how you like the smaller seat sizes! When customers report airline employees are good, airlines advertise their high customer satisfaction ratings.)

Companies alert to social media are watching their Twitter feeds and Facebook posts; they pay attention to public statements of dissatisfaction. Yelp, Tripadvisor, Angie’s List, and other public, transparent communication tools allow companies to respond when their customers are dissatisfied. Customers don’t expect perfection but they want mistakes addressed.

 Don’t fix the problem, prevent it

Some companies are dealing with complaints by apologizing profusely and giving the customer something to make up for the mistake. An airline gives frequent flyer points when a bag was delayed. A cable TV company sends customers’ birthday emails even though their service technicians are rarely on time. Don’t build processes to fix problems or make excuses, build processes to PREVENT problems. Little mistakes are easy to prevent. Slowing down, analyzing,  and doing things right the first time has been proven to be more cost effective than fixing problems after they occur.

How can a company get back to paying attention to details?

  1. Listen to your customers. Have you ever noticed how many times a fast food employee asks you the same question twice (“Did you say to go or eat in?”) They are not listening.
  2. Think before you promise. Can you really be at my house by 4 pm? Don’t squeeze me in and then show up late.
  3. Be brave enough to say no if you can’t deliver. If you are too busy to take on a new customer or the customer wants something that you are not good at, tell them no. Better to lose the business honestly than promise something and disappoint.
  4. Focus on one thing at a time, multi-tasking is a fallacy. Employees who are overwhelmed with work will make mistakes, guaranteed.
  5. Review work before it goes out. How long does it take to proof read an email blast before sending it to 10,000 customers? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Companies which take the time to  stay focused on the details will win in the long run.

Death by a thousand cuts was a horrible method of execution in ancient China where the executioner continued to make “little” cuts, any one of which would not really hurt the victim, but thousands of which were fatal. Pay attention to the “little mistakes” and keep your customers!

Post your thoughts below, how can we improve the quality of our products and services?

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