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The Slight Edge
April 10, 2020

Have you ever noticed that there is a profound difference in the quality of service delivered in the San Fernando than the rest of the country?  Whenever I visit, I always only have pleasurable encounters; from the drivers on the road to the sales rep at my favourite boutique. My southern excursions make me wonder what makes the difference in service, you know, the things that make you go WOW. Or at the other end, the things that make you exclaim in unprintable words.

I discovered the answer in the words of Holly Stiel, customer service author and speaker. She said, “You never get bitten by an elephant. It’s the mosquitoes that eat you alive.” You see, when the same product your company offers can be purchased at any number of merchants, then the differentiating factor has got to be service. But, when the service you offer can be experienced at any number of merchants, the differentiating factor is the little details.

Some time ago, I was on the hunt for a jacket and walked into a store.  I selected two jackets to try on. On entering the changing room, I noticed that there was neither a shelf nor a hook to place my handbag. Two questions immediately came to mind: If the store is selling female clothing, wouldn’t the majority of shoppers be female? Don’t most women carry their handbags when shopping? That’s a minor detail that cost them a sale. 

Knowing the right “little detail” to focus on and when though, is what separates the pros from the amateurs. I once waited ten minutes for attention at a retailer, while the salesclerk meticulously cleaned the showcase.  I suppose she just wanted to make sure a customer I wouldn’t be offended by a speck of dust.

 If, as a business owner you realize that your business is service and not just the products you offer, how it is offered will influence your decision-making.  Many years ago I worked for an organization well known for building relationships with its customers.  A decision was taken to never say “no” to a customer. A customer, we were told, only wants to know what can be done, not what can’t be done. When a customer’s request could not be met, our first words were never to be “I’m sorry we can’t” but rather, “Here’s what we can do.” This minor detail made a huge difference to the customer, who saw us as working with them, to satisfy their needs and not just simply following rules.

The author, T. Scott Gross wrote, “In the Olympics, what separates gold from bronze? Does one run the entire race while the other walks? The difference is in the details. Small nearly unnoticeable differences in technique and training that are only observable at the finish line.” The same is true for your business. Focusing on the right little details gives you a slight edge and will always have a considerable and measurable impact on your bottom line.


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