Wooden Chopsticks?

Details matter. More than you might think.

Last Friday I ate at Silk, a very upscale Japanese restaurant in Midtown Atlanta. Overall it is a great restaurant. Great food, dramatic setting. But for Gods sake – wooden chopsticks?

This is a place with a $58 six-ounce steak. $36 sushi. A Japanese owner and a Japanese theme. And they bring out the $36 sushi with cheap, $4 chow mein chopsticks. Yes, those. The ones you have to break apart yourself and scrape until the splinters fall off. WITH THE STUPID PAPER WRAPPER.

And you know what? The sushi was great. The whole meal was great. But none of us could talk about anything but those damn chopsticks. Ranting, Ranting! all the way home. Did they mean to set us off like that? Did they mean to convey a sense of disrespect? Of getting ripped-off? I doubt it. They probably thought of it as nothing more than a detail. A trivial matter. But they should know better. Everyone knows that 2 oz of raw fish costs $.50. People are paying for an experience, and they’re willing to shell out good money for it. Another few cents and we would have left raving.

iPods are $500. Dell MP3 players are $200. Dell is losing, and they don’t know why. After all, Dell has Apple beat on everything – except the details. More storage, longer battery life, and enough money left over to buy 30 albums. And Dell has sold a grand total of 11 MP3 players to Apple’s 20 million. It’s all details – from the texture of the clickwheel, right down to the box. In fact, every person I know keeps the box when they buy an Apple product. You just can’t help it because it’s too cool to throw away. The Apple box is just like the new car smell. Logically meaningless, but emotionally sublime. A detail.

Don’t run a restaurant? Don’t sell consumer electronics? No matter. What does your proposal look like? Are you selling a $50,000 product with a proposal that looks like a 9-year old PowerPoint? Are your people answering the phone like it’s an imposition? Putting my sweater in the bag without tissue paper? All  details, but with an exponential value on how your product (or service) is perceived.

I started thinking about it the next day, and here’s the thing:
I judged a nearly perfect restaurant experience as a failure because of one detail. How many of those details are being missed in my business? 3? 15? 125? More than one I’ll bet. I pledged right then to pour over every detail of our clients experience relentlessly. If I can get it down to one last detail, I’ll be pretty happy. And then I’ll crush that detail like a rotten egg.

Details matter. They may be the only things left.

Leave a Reply