People always say, “don't sweat the details,” but I say for business success it's critical to sweat the details. The details are the difference between adequate service and exceptional service, between and satisfied clients and loyal clients, and good and great companies.

I was recently at a luncheon where Troy Vincent, former Badger and NFL star, was speaking. He talked about a new attitude that Barry Alvarez brought in when Barry took over the football program at Wisconsin. He took a losing team and program and made it a winner. One of the key phases that Troy said Barry emphasized over and over is: “detail in your work”. He still remembers that saying and uses that saying with his kids. The idea being you must really strive for perfection to be the best you can be. That holds true on the football field and in business.

The reason to sweat the details is it’s the path to exceptional service. Exceptional service in turn leads to client loyalty, and having loyal clients are critical to be a great company.

In a client service situation, it’s easiest to just do the minimum that a client asks. For example, a client asks for some information and you send them an email with the data. Job complete. It’s done, but not done as well as it could be. You have to sweat the details – follow up to ask if they received the email and if the information made sense and answered their question. It’s the little things. They’re not hard to do, just not commonly done.

Why is it so important? It’s because you can’t develop loyal clients (as opposed to simply satisfied clients) if you don’t exceed expectations. And you’re not going to exceed anyone’s expectations by doing an “okay” job.

Every business strives for (or should be striving for) loyal clients. At our company, we survey clients every year and take the results very seriously. We are looking for and working towards client loyalty. The difference between a satisfied client and a loyal client is significant. Studies show the economic value of a “loyal” client is much higher to a business than a simply “satisfied” client.

A great company is one which institutionalizes this mind set and these behaviors, and thereby has a preponderance of loyal clients. Loyal clients don’t switch providers every time they can save a nickel and they give you a second chance when you make a mistake. They are crucial for a company’s long term success.

Being a perfectionist isn’t always a great thing, but when it comes to client interaction, it is. This attention to detail and what that means for the client’s experience is the great equalizer in business. From the client’s perspective, it doesn’t matter if your company is a four person firm or a multinational enterprise - it’s all about them, and how they are treated.

Do the people in your company sweat the details?