Does Your Business Have Any 'Broken Windows?'

Posted: Updated:

You may have heard of the "broken windows" theory, but probably in connection with politics and law enforcement. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani famously employed this philosophy in the 1990s to clean up his city.

The basic idea of broken windows, which was first introduced by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson in The Atlantic in 1982, is that if you let the little problems slip, like broken windows, vandalism and rampant graffiti, bigger problems eventually become insurmountable. Ignoring tiny errors or mistakes, invites ambivalence to much larger problems!

Some years later author Michael Levine adapted the theory to the business world in his book, Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards. His take was that if you let the little things degrade in your operation, particularly how you treat your customers, it will eventually impact the entire company.

When problems go unaddressed, they tend to repeat themselves. Soon a mistake becomes standard operating procedure. That sets the bar even lower for other areas of your operations. Employees start to take less pride in what they do, impacting productivity and morale. Clients notice they aren’t getting the level of customer service they’re accustomed to, and begin to look for other partnerships.

Say you're walking by a restaurant and you're hungry. You notice the windows are so dirty you can hardly see inside. Would you want to go in? Or you do enter and notice there is flaking paint and chipped plaster on the walls near the cooking area. Does the grumbling in your stomach suddenly stop?

Even though these things may have no impact on the quality of the meal you receive, they send a signal to customers -- that management doesn’t care about the details and makes you wonder what else are they cutting short and ignoring a commitment to quality.

Transfer the example to a professional office setting. Is the carpet in the reception area worn? Is there nobody manning the front desk, or the person there seems disengaged and bored? Do your employees dress and behave in a professional manner? When people call your office, are they put on hold for long periods with an automated message telling them, “Your call is very important to us?”

If you are the owner or manager of a business, you have to take on an almost obsessive-compulsive personality when it comes to how the organization runs on a daily basis. You must manage the organization in a very meticulous, deliberate way so that any problems are quickly discovered and addressed.

Take the initiative to see your company from the perspective of a current or potential customer. Are they getting the experience they want from the engagement? Are there shortcomings, even minor ones that could be remedied to improve how they view your organization and their overall experience in interacting with your company?

The best way to determine how people see your business is to ask your customers. Reach out to them for feedback from time to time, and ask them to report flaws in what you do. Invite constructive criticism—to make your operation BETTER!! Some industries even use secret shoppers or other monitoring services to report back with unfiltered information you can use.

We can apply the broken windows idea to virtually every aspect of a business. Is your website up to date and easy to use on every platform? Is it simple for people to find and contact your company? Is the method for receiving incoming inquiries monitored constantly and professionally?

In finding the little flaws in your business – and keeping them from becoming big ones - the secret is to think about the type of brand you want to build for your organization, and then work to make it reality. Envision the customer service experience you want your customers to have, then find out if that’s what they are actually getting. As the owner-- it is OK to be OCD about customer service and your customer’s experience!!

If you find there are any broken windows in your business, even teeny cracks the customer can't yet see, fix them quickly before they become the new normal. Duct tape may keep the glass from shattering, but replacement allows the customer to enjoy the experience.

Tom Sponsel is managing partner of Sponsel CPA Group.

  • Perspectives

    • Indiana Cracks Top 10 in Forbes Best States For Business Rankings

      Forbes recently released its annual ranking of the best states for business. Indiana cracked the top ten coming in at 10th for 2017. Forbes analyzed approximately 40 metrics spanning six category groupings. Not surprising, many of the "usual suspects" show up in the best and worst states.

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Indiana Cracks Top 10 in Forbes Best States For Business Rankings

      Forbes recently released its annual ranking of the best states for business. Indiana cracked the top ten coming in at 10th for 2017. Forbes analyzed approximately 40 metrics spanning six category groupings. Not surprising, many of the "usual suspects" show up in the best and worst states.

    • Cold Beer Sales Next up in Senate Committee

      Two high-profile bills that would change the state's alcohol laws are in the spotlight Wednesday at the Statehouse. Senate Bill 26, which would extend cold beer carryout sales to grocery, convenience and drug stores is set to go before the Public Policy Committee. Also, House Bill 1051 received approval Wednesday morning from the House Public Policy Committee. It involves Sunday carryout sales from noon-8 p.m. in package liquor, grocery, convenience and drugs stores.

    • Work Begins on $389M Regional Health Center

      Officials have broken ground on what Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton calls the largest single economic development investment in the city's history. The $389 million Indiana University Health Regional Academic Center will include a new Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital and IU's health sciences and other related academic and research facilities. IU President Michael McRobbie says the center will usher in "a completely new era..."

    • Purdue to Lead $27M Autonomous Intelligence Center

      Purdue University is set to lead a five-year, $27 million project aimed at developing brain-inspired computing for intelligent autonomous systems such as drones and personal robots. The university says the goal is to have these systems operating without human intervention. 

    • Former Lake County Sheriff Sentenced to Prison

      A former Lake County Sheriff will spend more than 15 years behind bars. U.S. District Court Judge James Moody sentenced John Buncich after he was convicted on fraud and bribery charges.