I recently asked the manager of a truck service shop how the feedback from our voice-of-customer research had helped her improve her operations. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but after a thoughtful pause she looked at me and said “paint and zip ties”. I laughed at how far off the mark I’d been with my assumptions.

I’m not sure what I’d expected. Perhaps something more generic, like “the customer feedback helped us improve our communication processes”. But as she expanded on her answer and showed me around the shop floor, I could see why these seemingly small details were important. Her lesson applies to any service organization, not just truck shops: finishing touches matter.

She explained that many of her customers spend significant sums on major engine repairs and rebuilds and not only expect the engine to be restored to excellent mechanical condition, but, as it turns out, they also want it to look restored. So, her technicians now apply fresh paint after major engine work and use zip ties to organize the engine compartment.

But why would a customer care about cosmetic details if the job is mechanical in nature? Aren’t the cosmetic details just fluff? A couple thoughts:

  1. Cosmetic details are indicators of quality. Our perception of service quality is influenced by the parts of a job we can inspect and understand, such as cosmetic details, because they to help us guess at the quality of the all-important parts of the job we can’t inspect or understand. If I pick up my truck and its engine compartment is clean and well-organized and the engine has a fresh coat of paint on it, it signals quality workmanship and helps me feel more confident the non-visible work was done right.2.
  2. Going the extra mile tells customers “your business matters to us”. Taking care to do the extra, non-essential finishing touches of any service job doesn’t just signal high quality work. It tells customers they count and that you appreciate their business. This can positively influence how customers feel about their service experience and their relationship with your business, which in turns makes it more likely that they will remain loyal over time and recommend you to others.

I was excited that the manager had discovered this simple opportunity to improve the customer experience. Customer feedback programs provide managers with valuable insight into aspects of their business which often require significant time and investment to change, but from time to time they also uncover this type of low hanging fruit. Think about the finishing touches your organization applies to your customer experiences. Do you have any “paint and zip tie” opportunities?


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