Broken Windows, Broken Business was inspired by an article titled "Broken Windows" by criminologists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in the March, 1982 issue of Atlantic Monthly. Wilson and Kelling suggested that when laws against minor crimes, such as graffiti and turnstile jumping, are enforced, and broken windows are promptly repaired, major crime rates will decline.
When Rudolph Giuliani became mayor of New York City in 1994, he worked with police commissioner William Bratton to implement a "zero tolerance" broken windows policy. Graffiti was promptly cleaned up on subway cars. Turnstile jumping wasnít tolerated. Laws against petty crimes were enforced. Over the following few years, the number of murders, assaults, robberies and other violent crimes went down dramatically.
Levine says the same principle applies to businesses. Business owners and their employees must become fanatics in attending to the details of presenting ourstanding customer service and in the image presented by the business to inspire customer confidence and loyalty.
Mystery shoppers should be regularly employed to learn whether customers are having a positive experience dealing with the company. Candidates for mystery shoppers to recruit include customers who already complain about their experiences with the company.
It is critical that the right kind of people (those who enjoy dealing with people) be hired for customer contact positions. Employees exhibiting an attitude of "A smile isnít in my job description" must be told that a smile certainly is required, and to find other employment if they canít fulfill the required behavior.
The worst business scenario is "broken window hubris". Examples are Kmart and Enron. A company suffers from broken window hubris when management thinks the business is so successful that itís no longer important to please customers.
Although I found the presentation to be rather dogmatic, I recommend that anyone involved with running a business or customer service read Broken Windows, Broken Business. Most of us will discover or be reminded that we have our own broken windows in our businesses that need to be fixed.
For our new reviews of business and self-improvement books, subscribe to our newsletter, Michael Gray, CPA's Tax & Business Insight!