Ask about the small stuff

I recently had lunch with a fellow consultant who focuses on employee surveys. Contrary to what you might expect in the grand scheme of employer/staff relations, he spends much of his time getting executives to pay attention to "small" problems. In one case, it was a departmental laser printer long overdue for replacement—very like the machine which met a violent end in Office Space.

In your surveys, are you only looking at the "big" problems? While you (hopefully) have a comment field to catch the random issues, consider asking about the small stuff. Often there are a half dozen things we could fix for a fraction the cost of one big problem, and while they won't give us exciting press releases or new bullets on the feature list, they help keep our employees and customers happy.

It doesn't have to be subtle, it can simply be a question like:

Are there any small irritations in using our product/service which we could remove for you? List up to three.

For various companies I would have given these answers:

  • Let me rearrange the open applications in my Windows program bar
  • Give me a silent hold option (or just music instead of sales pitches)
  • Make the phone menu tree simpler
  • Remember me on the Web site so I don't have to keep logging in

They're all relatively small issues, but ones which make me frown a little every time I run into them and which I'd love to see fixed.

What small stuff are you overlooking?

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