Thorn in my pride

I was sitting in a bucket chair at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, waiting for a late-night flight to Cleveland, when I noticed a janitor pushing a large, wheeled trash barrel.

He ambled along with an expression somewhere between indifference and insolence. Every few steps, he bent over, scooped up a handful of litter and tossed it in his barrel. He eyed some litter near me and, as he ventured past to collect it, his body language screamed, “I don’t want to be here.”

When he walked back, some of the litter slipped from his arms. A half-hearted attempt to catch it failed, and a few candy wrappers, a crumpled up newspaper page and a straw tumbled to the ground.

The man continued back to the barrel and deposited the remainder of his armful. What happened next solidified my negative perception of the employees at O’Hare.

Earlier that evening, I’d been dealt two bad hands that first forged my impression. First, my flight was delayed for a couple hours. There were whispers of a cancellation, but no one would provide a straight answer.

Next, I waited for more than an hour at airport security because two of three open stations closed promptly at 8 p.m., leaving hundreds of people in the three lines workers had sorted us into confused about what we should do next. We finally decided to consolidate into one, messy line, and nobody was happy.

So when the janitor stared for what seemed like forever at the litter he had dropped, then shrugged, turned and pushed his trash barrel away, his utter disdain for his job capped a perfect evening. It was a small detail, but it caused me to believe that O’Hare employed too many people who don’t care whether their attitudes negatively impact the airport’s clientele.

The simple truth is that whether your employees do care does directly affect how customers view your business. Like it or not, it’s the little things that leave the biggest impressions upon your clients.

Attention to detail and a good attitude toward the job often matter more than anything else. If your customer touch points don’t deliver positive impressions, your business will most certainly suffer the consequences.