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Customer Experience

It’s the Little Things that Matter in Customer Experience

A single pebble can create beautiful ripples in the water, just as it's the little things that matter in customer experience.

If you think the little things don’t matter in customer experience, think again.

In my home growing up, the Chicago Bears were a constant. No matter how bad they were – and they were rarely good – our devotion never wavered.

Even today, my Sundays are spent with my dad, a diehard fan if there ever was one, watching the team we love, even if we don’t always love how they play.

All of which is why, as a grown up customer experience professional, I read with interest a recent article in my hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune. It focused on the new Bears President and CEO, Kevin Warren, and his enthusiasm for an admittedly challenging job.

One thing in particular struck me: a metaphor Warren used to illustrate his obsession with even the seemingly smallest of details. “I’ve learned in life that the power of one suggestion can really change the trajectory of an organization in a positive manner,” he told the paper. “…Minor details are major. You can put the smallest pebble in your shoe, and it may not be bad if you’re walking around the house. But go try to run a marathon.”

It’s all in the pebble. As I often say in my keynote presentations, good customer experience doesn’t have to be a multi-year, multi-million dollar transformational project. It’s actually an endless series of little things, a journey not a destination, in which small niceties add up to one big whole.

Warren’s pebble illustrates perfectly the idea that no detail is unimportant, that brands should view customer experience as like dropping multiple pebbles in the water and watching them expand into a beautiful symmetry in which great experience is created.

In other words, it’s the little things.

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Clean Clothes

Examples abound of companies following this philosophy. Take Hilton Double Tree hotels, where guests are greeted with a warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie at check-in.

As one happy international traveler noted: “By listening, responding, and giving me something that exceeded my expectations, they created a customer experience moment that has lasted for years.”

In the Harlem section of Manhattan, it’s a dry cleaner that uses a seemingly little thing to go beyond. Since the COVID pandemic began, it has offered free cleanings to anyone unemployed who needs an outfit for a job interview.

Elton Cerda, the owner of one DryCleanNYC location, says the goal is to give back to the community. Yes – but it’s also a smart customer experience strategy that consumers will remember.

From small neighborhood stores to large conglomerates, the principle is the same. Nordstrom, for example, is known for a series of customer experience nuances that add up to a compelling larger whole.

When people shop in person, a Nordstrom associate walks around the counter to personally greet the purchaser, hand them their bag, and thank them for shopping. And in New York City, the first Nordstrom men’s store actually obtained a liquor license so customers could shop with a drink in their hand.

It’s not about the personal greeting or the drink, per se. These seemingly small gestures stand out as important elements in laying a broader customer experience foundation.

They’re not really little – they’re large.

As one expert notes: “It’s the little things. It’s like knowing whether your guest likes two or three olives in her martini.”

Little Things in Customer Experience Matter in Sports, Too

My beloved Chicago Cubs ran up against this truism when they ditched the Old Style beer served for decades in plastic cups at Wrigley Field in favor of a new sponsorship deal with Budweiser.

In the words of one nearby sports bar owner: “It’s a shocker. It’s unfortunate. There’s going to be a lot of guys going to the game… their fathers, their grandfathers would sit down at the ballpark, have a hot dog and an Old Style beer.”

Does it really matter if you’re selling Bud Lite instead of Old Style? From a fan experience perspective, it sure does. There was something about having an Old Style at Wrigley that really meant something to generations of people. It’s not about the beer itself – it somehow doesn’t taste as good at home – it’s about the combination of the Wrigley experience and that beer.

Which brings us back to my equally beloved Bears. The career of Warren, the new President, neatly illustrates a focus on small things that are really big things. One of his key responsibilities in his new role will be overseeing a potential new Bears stadium, something he already did for the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium he helped shepherd is known as “the people’s stadium,” with everything from a firepit with views of the Minneapolis skyline where fans can watch the game with VIP table-side service, to an art collection they can view featuring the works of about 40 local artists.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the detail-oriented Warren still keeps boxes of binders documenting his work on the project. When the stadium was done, many people told him he could dump the binders because he’ll never need them again.

“I’m glad I saved them,” he said.

What You Can Do

So what can businesses do to emulate Warren’s approach? Pay attention to the seemingly little things. (Note: This works for employee experience, too.) As I learned almost daily during my nearly 10 years at Discover Card, the little things matter, and eventually they add up to big things.

Look at every single touchpoint with a prospect or customer as an opportunity to create an experience where one doesn’t already exist, or to improve upon the experience if it does.

Customer experience is a journey, and there is no destination because it’s never finished. And your customers, just like you, don’t like running with a pebble in their shoe.

Go Bears!

Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash.

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