The Butterfly Effect

In my corporate talks, I like to reference a theory which scientists have been unable to disprove. It is called the Butterfly Effect and theorizes that, given the proper conditions, a butterfly flapping its wings in Memphis can create atmospheric changes that can result in a hurricane in Japan.

You might be wondering what this has to do with a column on customer service. The answer is…a lot!

Surveys constantly support the notion that the number one reason that customers leave a service provider vowing never to go back is due to an attitude of indifference on the part of one employee. Just one! In other words, the seemingly insignificant actions of making a customer feel unimportant results in the permanent loss of that customer. That customer, in turn, may tell another prospective customer who then doesn’t patronize the service provider to begin with! The storm begins to swell.

Many business leaders and executives fail to realize how much their small actions mean to their subordinates and co-workers. These small actions, such as not paying attention to an employee’s personal problems or simply ignoring an employee in the hall, can lead to that employee being indifferent to a customer. We have already discussed that impact

Many of us fail to consider the effect that we have every day on the people around us. Think for a moment of the people who have had the most influence on your life. Do they know how much they impacted you? Have you ever let them know how much you appreciate the little things they did that had so much influence on how you live your life?

Here are some ways that you can assure that the Butterfly Effect works in a positive way for the people you touch:

  • Remember that if you are in a position of authority or leadership, someone is watching your attitude and behavior constantly. They are determining everything from using your behavior as a model to whether they might follow your lead as a career path. Be a good role model for the people who follow you.
  • Your personal issues that cause you to be in a bad mood can and do affect the people around you. Your poor behavior because something is bothering you can lead to someone else having a bad day and behaving the same way. Try to separate your personal problems from your business behavior.
  • Your small positive actions may lead to someone else’s positive actions. In the classic “pay it forward” method, it seems that acts of kindness often lead to other acts of kindness. Think many small nice acts as opposed to one enormous one.
  • Your customers and employees discuss their experiences with you. This “buzz” is extremely impacting on a business, especially as regards sales and recruitment. Positive experiences get told and retold; these stories become the culture of any organization. The consistent small acts of the employees of Nordstrom and The Ritz-Carlton, for example, lead to the customer service mystique for which they are renowned. In both instances, customers are more aware of the service through conversations with other customers than through advertising. Enormous results are achieved from a lot of small actions.

So why not think before you take even the smallest action today. Remember that your slightest actions might change the direction of a customer or co-worker. Substitute impatience with empathy, indifference with kindness.

Observers of your company will notice the difference in your employees, small changes will create large results, and you’ll start a Revolution of Kindness.