ICS Magazine

Little Things That Make a Big Difference

September 14, 2004

Sometimes it's the little things that can make a big difference in building a successful business.

A courteous smile, a little extra care in moving or placing furniture, taking steps not to let the cat out, ensuring the proper placement of corner protectors, or cleaning the little entry mat at the front door. These are all things that customer service experts refer to as the "Wow" factor.

It is a fact that the most memorable aspects of a particular company's service often have little or nothing to do with the actual service being requested. I would compare it to when you go out to a restaurant for dinner: what you remember most is the service, the atmosphere or the unique location, instead of the meal itself (unless the meal is not up to par, and then it is certainly remembered).

The same is true for a cleaning-service company. It is truly important to provide the finest quality workmanship that you possibly can, but it is equally important to find a way to set your service apart from all the rest and make your company memorable to the customer. Create a positive service experience in every way you can. Many "Wow" factors are inexpensive and leave fantastic impressions on the client. Placing a mat or towel inside the entrance and wiping your feet upon entry, or even using little disposable booties to cover your soiled shoes when in their home, can convey your message of caring for their furnishings louder than any advertisement.

Some of the "little things" that should never be forgotten are free. I am referring to a sincere smile or compliment, and a neat and tidy appearance for both you and your equipment. Sometimes simply being on time for the appointment or placing a courtesy phone call if running a little late is all that is needed to impress the customer. There's a local tire company in my town that requires all service employees to run or jog out to meet customers driving in for service. The impression made from this single factor has earned them a reputation that is more powerful than any expensive ad they might place.

In short, people just want to know that you haven't forgotten about service and can still remember just who the customer is in all this. There's an old saying that I'm sure you've heard but probably bears repeating: "The customer doesn't care how much you know until she knows how much you care."

Like with most things, for every up there's a down and for every positive there is a negative. Dirty equipment, bad language and foul-smelling technicians can do a lot to erase the beauty of a wonderful cleaning job. Leaving a mark on the driveway from a dripping dump valve or a brown snake-like hose line on the green grass are also examples of negative "Wow" factors. Yesterday I needed to place a call to the customer-service line of our local telephone company. Once I worked my way through the maze of "Press 1 for...," I finally got to the department I needed and got the old "all our agents are currently helping other customers, please hold for the next available customer service agent."

Well, 70 minutes later (that's one hour and 10 minutes later) I finally got to talk to the customer-service agent. I was so angry for having been on hold for so long I proceeded to offer my opinions to him about his company's service and almost forgot what I had originally called about. Thinking back, the actual service provided by the agent once I finally calmed down was excellent. But I've already told everybody I know about the 70 minutes on hold and that they should think twice about using this company.

Always keep the "Wow" factors in mind when offering quality customer service. Industry leaders tell us that the majority of our business is generated from repeat and referral services from satisfied clients. It's often the little things that lead to that business.