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Something as small and innocuous as a broken window sends a signal to those who pass by every day. If it is left broken, the owner of the building isn't paying attention or doesn't care. Social psychologists and police officers agree that if one window is broken, all of the other windows will soon be broken too. It sends a bad message. It shows there is no order, no maintenance, and ultimately that whoever is in charge simply doesn't care — a kind of anarchy by neglect.

This is a term coined by the criminal justice system but does not just have to do with crime and criminals; it can be applied to businesses as well. Take a messy bathroom, an indifferent employee, or a messy condiment area at a fast-food restaurant. Broken windows indicate to the consumer that the business doesn't care — either that it is so poorly run it can't possibly keep up with its obligations or that it has become so oversized and arrogant that it no longer cares about its core consumer. They are the little details, but those are the things a consumer may notice the most, and it points to a bigger message.

The way a consumer perceives your business is a crucial element in a business's success or failure. If a consumer has a negative experience even one time, it is inviting disaster. Perception can change even after years of positive experience with a business, and it can be what makes a customer never return back.

Say a person visits the same coffee shop every single day. But one day, they are standing in line and notice the paint on the wall is peeling. This makes the customer wonder, what if that paint is peeling off and falling onto a surface where food is being prepared? The customer then wonders about the overall cleanliness of the store itself. That one seemingly minute detail can lead the customer's entire perception of a business to change — even if it is not the reality and the business is clean. It's better to create a positive perception of course, but avoiding the negative one is far and away the most crucial thing one can do to attract and keep customers.

And while most customers will just leave the store and never return, some may turn to social media if they had a very bad experience. Most people do not want in-person confrontation, with "store managers or telephone shouting matches with customer service representatives." Social media serves as a safe space for people to recount their experiences with a store and has more of a chance of holding the business accountable.

Kalev Leetaru wrote in Forbes, "It is remarkable how many stories about companies behaving badly these days begin with a wronged customer trying to solve the situation directly with the company and only after the company refuses to make things right, airing their grievances on social media, wherein the story goes viral and the company immediately apologizes and fixes things." It can spark a discussion of other peoples' similar recants with that business and cause a lot of damage to the company, such as damaging its stock price or leading to forced executive resignations.

Constant vigilance, an absolute obsession with detail, is essential to running a business today. If you're not obsessed with the details of your business, believe me, there will be someone who is obsessed with theirs, and they will see to it that they overrun your customer rolls and decimate the loyalty you've built up with your regular clientele. A broken window needs to be repaired before it breaks so that the consumer never sees it in the first place. A quick cosmetic touch-up will not do the job either; it has to be a whole-hearted, quality repair, or the paint will start peeling soon again.

No window is too small to break, nor is any window too small to repair. Everything counts, significantly more than you might think, especially on social media. And while consumers do not fully have a role in a customized production design process yet, they have a large and growing role in the survival of a business thanks to social media. There is a spotlight on broken windows now. Almost everyone can probably think of an instance where they had an issue or a complaint with a business and they were not listened to — but now many of these issues are being brought to the public eye thanks to social media. Your business, to put it simply, will not survive too many broken windows. And "too many" is one.