Why every little thing matters….

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‘Son. Retail is Detail’


If I ever met the Regional Managing Director from Tesco who said this to me I’d probably have to buy him dinner. I’ve used this story so much with clients that I often forget that virtually everyone who has paid me any amount of money will be familiar with it.

For those of you that don’t know it or can’t remember it here it is (taken straight from Sleeping Tiger Revolution)

In my early career, I worked for a major food retailer. I was lucky to be taken out on a store visit with one of the very senior directors. This chain had about six hundred stores in the U.K., and he was responsible for a hundred of them.

He was a very serious but engaging guy, an old school retailer. As we went around the store, I noticed him picking up products and looking at packaging, running his finger along the shelf underneath the product, looking at the floor, going up and checking staff uniforms.

I was surprised, so I asked him a question. “Look, you’re a senior director; you must be very busy, with a lot on your mind. Why are you focusing on this level of detail in one store?”

He looked at me and said, “Son, retail is detail. If I can’t trust my store manager to get these little things right how can I trust him with the big decisions?”

Last week I saw a Facebook post from a lady who purported to be an expert in helping businesses systemise themselves. In fact she had branded her whole business around her previous role as in UK Operations at Mcdonald’s. I’m always on the lookout for people with different skill sets to me so I clicked on the link to find out more. Guess what????

“Page not found. Error 404”

In a single second, her reputation was shredded with me. She may be the very best systemiser of businesses in the United Kingdom but she wouldn’t be able to get in my diary now.

But this is an extreme. Your team wouldn’t let a customer down would they? You wouldn’t leave the phone ringing, a query un-responded to, the stock low, the quotation late? It should be clear to you and everyone in your team:


The little details are not important. THEY ARE EVERYTHING!!


Through my studies I have become increasingly aware of the sensitivity of people, and myself, to the smallest of details around me. My discomfort sometimes manifests itself as a clear thought e.g. ‘I haven’t heard back from John’ or ‘that’s a typo’. Other times it hits me as a ‘feeling’ or a ‘sense’ that something isn’t right. I’ve learned to test these signals in the system and to understand where they are coming from. That’s now part of my skill set. Your customers may not be this sophisticated in their understanding of what those feelings are telling them but one thing is for sure; they will be affecting their decisions about you and your company.

Remember 80% of a purchasing decision is emotion based with just 20% logical back up. Those ‘feelings’ about your company are the source of the emotion.

Action – Talk to your teams about this. It’s unlikely that you can create rules and process for every step of the customer journey but they should be systemised where possible. What you can do is make sure your expectations of how customers are treated is crystal clear and the standards are explicit.

I have an unproven belief that if all of the ‘details’ were attended to, it would add, on average, 25% to the bottom line of most businesses.