Have you ever noticed how it’s not the big stuff that throws us off course; it’s the small things? We often find we can rise to the occasion, when it matters; we respond to major events with relative calmness. Then something really small, and silly, upsets the apple-cart and we are plunged into panic and misery.
Let me give you a daft but personal example. I was going to a photo shoot- an important one and I had the outfit sorted, new haircut, smile at the ready and disaster! An attack of the zits, (spots in the UK). All I could see on my face were those damned zits, they dominated my whole self-perception and totally kyboshed my confidence. Now, I can see a lot of people reading this nodding, yes, it always seems to happen at the worst times- why is that?
Well, I have a theory about those small, seemingly unimportant matters that knock the wind out of our sails. We weren’t paying attention to the details in our lives; professional and personal.
Another example; how many of you reading this always get a cold as soon as you have a holiday? You work really hard, you earn that vacation and then you go down with a runny nose, headache, crippling cough and half your holiday is spent in bed.
What were you paying attention to? Well, you figured your holiday was coming soon, so you pushed yourself to get everything done. You made do with less sleep, you skipped meals and you focused so hard on the job you forgot to look after yourself. Adrenaline fuelled your efforts and your poor body was yelling and you just didn’t listen. As soon as you relaxed your body took advantage and sent you to bed ill, demanding that you give yourself time to regain a healthy approach to life.
Companies are also guilty of not paying attention to the small things
With a relentless focus on the “Big Picture” many organisations forget the everyday small details that keep most businesses afloat. They are so caught up in the grand scheme of things they forget the end user, the details of a project that make it actually work!
According to author and media expert Michael Levine, the biggest problems in business stem from ignoring the smallest of details.
It’s my belief that customers can get a strong indication about how a company does business and how it will attend to big concerns by how it attends to little ones.
How to make small details work for you
When planning a project- yes you need an overall picture but you also need to “see” how that project will work at the consumer end. Before you even start planning the implementation stage of a project think of the user experience, when you are still at the blueprint stage. Walk through the finished project in your mind- use visualisation techniques to see in your minds’ eye the fully operational project/product/service. Focus groups are useful at the planning stage; ordinary folk who will be your customers can often give a company some insight into which details truly matter.
Let me give you an example – from real life of a user experience I had which frustrated me, because I knew it could have been avoided. A local restaurant had undergone a (very expensive) refurbishment and was having a grand opening. I went along, curiosity and anticipation in equal mix. The food was great, the décor pleasing and the staff attentive. What was the problem? The ladies rest room was down a narrow, badly lit hallway, poorly signed and the bathrooms themselves were basic, to say the least! Seriously, I would have settled for less expensive artwork on the walls in favour of a decent lavatory! The restaurant has now lost my custom.
Employee lack of attention to detail can lose a company money
How employees answer the phone, respond to client complaints and write emails are all common areas where poor attention to detail results in lost customers. Employees often multi task and miss details, the very phone call that is an important client, missed because a distracted employee did not write the message down.
If you cover the small, but important details at the planning stage they won’t rise up and bite you when you least expect them! Grand visions are important to get a company moving; small details are important to keep it being profitable. Pay attention to small details; remember the saying, “If you watch the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves”?