The Little Things

Takeaway Coffee

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

Today’s post is written by Debbie Szumylo on the importance of viewing your business from the outside in and tending to the finer details.

At least three times a week for the last three years, I have visited the drive-thru of a well known coffee chain on my way into work. I’ve been an active member of their rewards program for over a year and am even familiar with some of the names and faces I see at the drive-thru window. We’ve exchanged pleasantries and have had some decent conversations. I’m a regular.

Every time I have taken advantage of their convenient drive-thru service, my order consists of a caffeine laden beverage and a protein packed breakfast sandwich. Not one time in the past three years have I ever been given or even offered a napkin. NEVER.

Seriously? I’m in a car, dressed in business attire, they hand me hot coffee and a meaty, messy breakfast item. Every single time, I grit my teeth and politely ask for a napkin. Sometimes, I am actually asking the same person for a napkin that I requested one from yesterday and the day before that.

The fact that I have to ask irritates me. Doesn’t a napkin seem like a no-brainer in this circumstance? I’ve often wondered just how many people have to ask for a napkin every day. And then I think… why has this obvious need not resonated with any of the drive-thru workers? Have the employees specifically been told to not offer a napkin? Or, are they just completely out of touch with the concept of “sensing and responding” to a customers’ need?

Some of you might be thinking, “Wow, she sure is fired up over a napkin.” You’re right; it does seem like a pretty minor thing when you look at it that way. But, remember, I’ve been a loyal customer of this particular coffee chain for three years. I was starting to think that perhaps I had developed a little bit of a relationship with some of their employees that I engage with three times a week. I don’t even see my mom that much! Clearly, the relationship I thought we were building is one-sided. This coffee chain has shown me that they don’t care enough about my needs. I have had to ask for what I need every day. For three years.

So guess what? A month ago, I made the decision to end my relationship with this coffee chain. The gas station right next to my house is cheaper, the coffee’s great, their cashiers are always friendly and I can get my own napkin every single time I stop.

Think about your business from your customers’ perspective. Put thought into the little things that you might be missing for them. If you consistently miss or overlook your customers’ basic needs over and over again, are you positive that when a competitor moves in and fills the gap on those little things, that you’ll be able to retain that customer?

Little things eventually become big things. Don’t let those important little things drive a wedge between you and your customers.


Debbie Szumylo specializes in helping organizations balance employee engagement, customer experience and business results. In her career, Debbie has dedicated countless hours to research that leads to understanding the customer and employee experience – and in turn, helping define those experiences and strategies that matter most to customers and employees. Debbie has a strong background in marketing communications and marketing strategy, in addition to client loyalty training and event management. She is a tireless champion for improving the customer experience. She can be contacted via Twitter @DebbieSzumylo


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