The Customer Service Butterfly Effect: Theory or Fact?

Written by on August 4, 2016


At speaking events, I frequently touch on the Butterfly Effect—a hypothetical premise that  touches on chaos theory. The theory proposes that under favorable conditions, a tiny Monarch butterfly in Mexico could influence weather patterns half a world away.

Intriguing, you might well be thinking, but what does this have to with serving customers? Prepare to be surprised!

Small Acts. Big Consequences.

We know from a steady stream of surveys that customers turn their back on services or products because of even a single act of indifference, neglect, or disrespect on the part of an employee. The seemingly insignificant words or actions of one employee can result in the loss of a customer—forever. That one customer tells others, and those potential customers may keep their distance from the brand, too. Does that one tiny act begin to sound like a hurricane in New Zealand?

Managers, Take Notice

Sometimes management underestimates these small “fails,” and they underestimate the effect their own actions have on their employees, as well. Omitting a kind word of support for an assistant’s personal problem. Walking past a custodian in the hall without a greeting. These thoughtless actions can contribute to a culture of indifference to the customers at the center of the business. And we all have seen what happens when customers awake,en masse, to the brand that loses customer mindfulness.

Consider the massive influence we have each and every day on the people around us—family, friends, and co-workers. Think about influencers important in your life. Have you told them of their relevance to your success? Have you shared with them how grateful you are for all the things they’ve done to support you?

Change the Weather

The Butterfly Effect doesn’t need to spell disaster. Instead of causing a hurricane, you can apply the hypothetical theory toward a positive result:

  • Be cognizant that if you are a leader, others are constantly observing you and modeling your behavior. Will you be proud if they follow your example?
  • Your bad mood is destructive when it becomes someone else’s problem. Why spread this virus? Try to compartmentalize personal issues so they don’t infect your team.
  • The small positive actions you take may cause uplifting ripples in someone else’s day. In the classic “pay it forward” method, it seems that small but conscious acts of kindness often lead to other acts of kindness.  Focus on many small mindful acts as opposed to one enormous one.
  • When your customers and employees share feelings or experiences with you, the resulting “buzz” is very useful. Good buzz inoculates businesses, especially in the areas of sales and recruitment.  Positive experiences get passed along and are folded into the culture of any organization. The consistent small acts of service by the employees of companies like Nordstrom and The Ritz-Carlton, for example, are now instantly perceived as extensions of those organizations.

Consider the Math

Customers are more aware of superior (or poor) service through conversations with other customers than through advertising.  Peer opinions matter among employees and customers just as in families. Enormous results are achieved from a lot of small actions.

So why not think twice before the actions you take today. Every one of us is a powerful force in nature. Trade impatience for empathy; defeat indifference with kindness. Observers of your company will take notice of the difference. Small changes will yield large results, and you’ll start a Revolution of Kindness.

Photo credit: Volker Schnabele/Unsplash

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