As with many absolutely valid aphorisms, "Don’t sweat the small stuff" makes perfect sense in one context and yet is completely wrong in another. The expression is usually followed by how to keep your cool in stressful situations, or how to focus on the really important things in life—like family and relationships, goals, and priorities. I agree. I’m a believer.
However, in the context of the service provider experience, it is actually the "small stuff" that separates the winners from the losers. It is mistakes with the small stuff that the customer uses to make future purchasing decisions. If my towels aren’t fresh smelling, or the fish is greasy, or the remote control battery for my TV is dead, then I don’t really care how great your hotel’s branding is, how memorable your advertising, or how attractive your décor.
In fact, I would argue that great service brands are born in the boring everyday details. You may have heard the old marketing adage "Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle." I don’t buy that. Sure, there is the occasional branding success, where marketing sizzle creates the opening for operations steak. But in 99% of cases, it’s the other way around; the steak comes before the sizzle. The service you provide must be darn close to perfect, or I won’t believe any of the hype you shovel me.
I’ve given a lot of thought to why so many service providers fall short on executing the details, and I’m convinced that far and away the No. 1 reason is that focusing on them is just not as interesting as working on new ideas, new strategies, etc. But after 25 years of listening to service industry customers on this subject, I’ve found that, with the exception of a few specialized boutique brands, the majority of consumers are looking for consistency and dependability from their service brands. Most don’t want the sizzle, they just want the performance. To deliver, pay attention to the daily execution of the details!
Richard D. Hanks
Salt Lake City