I was staying at a hotel a few nights back and I noticed something that I see way too often. There was a room service food tray outside of the room next to mine when I arrived at about 6pm. It was there every time I walked by, and right through until 10am the next morning.
In that time lots of hotel staff have had to walk by the room and none of them picked up the tray, which I'm assuming is because they didn't think it was their job. To me whenever I stay at a hotel and see trays left in hallways for long periods of time, I know that the service in that hotel will generally be terrible - and it most certainly was in the one I stayed it.
I think there are tell tale signs in every kind of business that really send the message that the people running the business don't care and that means that ultimately the people who own the business don't care.
Think of restaurants that can never clean a table or get meals out in a timely manner, even when they are quiet? Or retail businesses where you have to stand around waiting for the staff to get off the phone, generally a personal call. Or a company you contact online with a question and you never hear back from them and the last example, a printer that can't seem to pack anything without it being damaged in transit. There are all warning signs for us as customers that trouble is brewing.
The list goes on, we all know what it feels like, and we get the message loud and clear. The point here though is what is the indicator for your kind of business that tells a prospective customer you do or don't care?
Sure, most of the time it is all about attention to detail, but I think we need to be more specific, pinpointing the behaviors indicators that tell us something is wrong and it will probably be getting worse. What is your "tray being left overnight in the corridor" indicator?
To find out it might be good to ask your customers. If you are in a service industry odds on it will be something to do with communication. Suddenly is starts taking longer and longer to have telephone calls returned. This is sure fire indicator that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.
The real value in this idea is not just identifying the indicators, but in monitoring them and making sure there is a very clear plan of attack on what do when these issues arise. They need to be monitored continuously and managed absolutely.
If you really do care about your customers, make sure you show them by never giving them a reason to doubt you.