Michael Schrage in a Harvard Business Review blog noted that in almost every business there are petty items that can annoy your customers, contractors, suppliers and others you depend on to complete projects. His pet peeve is standing in line at Starbucks only to be delayed several seconds by each customer who does not have their payment ready when they reach the cash register. Could this irritant be resolved if Starbucks printed one of their perky signs that says, “As a courtesy to your fellow customers, please have payment ready when you order.”
Another example of minor irritants hurting business was the introduction by Proctor & Gamble of Pampers to Japan. Even though Pampers were technologically more advanced and less costly than their Japanese counterparts, P&G could not gain any traction whatsoever. P&G researchers went back to the drawing board and found the cause of their problem. The elastic leggings on the diaper made a mark on a baby’s skin. While the elastic did not hurt the child, it just left a mark that was unacceptable to Japanese mothers. They would not purchase a product that marred their children. This was a revelation to P&G. No other country in the world where Pampers were had this been an issue. Yet, in Japan, it was a big deal. P&G redesigned the elastic to make it just a little less snug and captured significant market share.
How do you identify pesky irritants that drive customers away? Customer satisfaction surveys likely are not going to provide the answers, because most of the time, those surveys are not designed to uncover pet peeves. Instead, they are geared toward uncovering more significant issues and problems. Surveys are designed to determine what makes customers happy or dissatisfied. They don’t ask, “What do we do that annoys you?”
It’s easy to write off those quirky issues that bother people. The serious complaints about lack of response time, ineffective fixes and supply chain delays certainly would take precedence over something as petty as having to pay an upcharge for blue instead of white paint. Or maybe someone is irked that your showroom web site has not been updated in a month or longer. Someone else may be irritated by the fact that you simply send too many emails and they have shut you out more way than you could imagine. How difficult is it to speak to a human being when prospects call your showroom? Do you have a standard for team members that mandates how long they can wait before responding to an email? An easy way to identify pet peeves is to ask your team to identify what they perceive inconveniences and irks customers.
How much is an unpicked nit worth? Plenty and you can make yourself look like a hero if you dig into the small things that annoy prospects and customers. It’s worth the effort. Profits, not the devil, are in the details.