Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

It’s a Little Thing… But It Makes a Difference

Every week I stay at different hotels around the world as I travel for my speaking engagements. And, every morning I get up in these hotels and take a shower. I reach in to turn the knob for the water, which is usually a few feet below the showerhead. I turn the knob to what I hope is the correct water temperature and pull my arm out just as fast as I can – to avoid the cold water that is about to shoot out of the nozzle and hit my arm or other parts of my body.

Okay, that doesn’t seem like a big deal – and it’s not. That is, until you experience something better.

On one of those mornings, many years ago, I noticed that the housekeeper had turned the shower head toward the wall so that the guest – that’s me – wouldn’t have to experience the cold water that first came spraying out of the shower. Such a small thing, but a thoughtful and much appreciated gesture.

Small, but what a brilliant customer focused idea. And, it may seem like a little thing, but it makes a difference. Since that time, every time I turn on the shower I look to see if the shower head is aimed at my arm below or at the wall. If it’s aimed straight down, I’ll turn it away.

Now, how many times do you think I’ve had to turn it away? You probably guessed, almost every time.

This simple act of turning the shower head toward the wall so the guest won’t get sprayed with cold water would take the housekeeping staff two seconds. That’s it!

There are some hotels that have figured this out. One morning I reached in to turn on the shower and didn’t see the knob. Where could it be? On the opposite wall! The wall that didn’t have a shower head looming above it, waiting to spray me with cold water. I smiled and took my time turning on the water.

That was just a little improvement. A nuance of a positive change. Very, very minor, but it made me think, “Why can’t this be the norm? Why is almost every shower, in almost every hotel I’ve stay in, not designed this way?” This is a rhetorical question. I don’t need an answer.

With today’s acute focus on the customer experience, the best companies are paying very close attention as they design the customer experience. They look for ways to improve the experience or avoid a mistake. Something as simple as putting the knob on the opposite wall of the shower head, or at least turning the shower head toward the wall, is an example of a minor improvement that may go unnoticed, until it later is.

So, what’s your organization’s version of the shower head? Where can you make a minor change that improves the customer’s experience, if even just a tiny bit? Talk about it with your colleagues. Brainstorm it. And, then make it happen. Here’s to a better, even just a tiny bit better, customer experience!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

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  1. Brilliant! We are encouraged for ‘bright ideas’ at the company I work for, and rewarded for them. Some of them the customer never sees, but they’re all geared toward making it a better experience.
    On a personal note – Quaker has a genius working for them. The paper envelope of instant oatmeal I had for breakfast this morning is marked so that you can put your milk/water in it to measure. Great on many levels!! It may have been around for a long time, but I was more awake this morning and noticed 🙂

  2. Interesting, did you leave feedback so the hotel next time made sure your stored preference was catered for.

    learn and share together.

  3. Wow, Shep! Great perspectives on the “little things” and its impact on customers. I think, as part of sales and also a customer, the most things that people appreciate are the little things. Sure, you give them the best service; but it’s that “going an extra mile” that they would always remember.

    P.S. I can totally relate with the showerhead “chronicle” you narrated here.

    • shephyken says:

      Hi Brooke – Thanks for stopping by with your comment. That extra mile might be a little thing. Sometimes it is just spending a moment or two extra with the customer.

      • Patrick McNally says:

        I love lots of small things. They usually cost little, but mean so much. They have a term for it down in Louisiana, called lagniappe, or, a little bit more. Like a baker’s dozen. Or, in the case of a florist I use, instead of just using tape or a string to wrap paper around flowers, they use jute, and put a forget-me-not in the bow. When they re-opened the new Crisler Center, they had two fountains in there. The crew who installed them was in there, doing final touches. I asked them, that the tradition is to make a wish and throw a coin in, would it affect the pumps? They said no, they anticipate it happening so they build them. I gathered all the shiniest pennies I could find, and created a Wish Jar. Every single time a crying child comes in, we ask if they want to make a wish. They immediately stop crying. We have them for young kids, and at the end of a tight game, a young guy came strutting by the fountain, proud of himself, and boasted that Michigan won because he threw a coin in and wished it. A penny. A simple penny changes the whole day. Little things matter.

        • Hi Patrick – What a great story. A shiny penny – something so small – can make a difference. You get it! Thanks for sharing!

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