Service Essentials – The Amplification Effect

Las Vegas, July 2010. I took a cab from the McCarran Airport to my

hotel, located about 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. The

annual TMI World Congress was being held at this hotel. I was

looking forward to seeing my TMI colleagues from around the world

and to bring new consulting and training methodologies back to

Malaysia. The cab pulled up to the hotel. First impressions were

good. The hotel wasn’t your usual over-the-top Las Vegas glitz, but

rather, gave the impression of muted tones with a touch of class. I

paid the cab driver and he drove off. There was no one from the

hotel to greet me as I got out of the cab. This registered in my brain

for a nanosecond, but it was just a little thing. I walked past a hotel

employee who seemed to be slouching at his desk outside of the

hotel. This sloppiness registered for a nanosecond, but it was just a

little thing. Little did I know that, by the time I had left the hotel, the

series of little things that weren’t quite right had become so huge

that they reverberated like big gongs banging inside of my head6

©2010 TMI Consultancy Sdn Bhd | | Page 2 of 4

Check-in went smoothly. I took the elevator to my room. I always

have a feeling of expectation as I put the key card in the door and

am about to inspect my “home” for the next few days. I swung the

door open. The room was dark. I fumbled around, looking for the

light switch. The lights didn’t come on. I looked for a place to put the

key card. There wasn’t one. For some reason, my stress levels went

up. I used my suitcase to prop the door open to let some light in,

fiddled with the two-way switch and it finally came on. I figured that

this must be a “George issue”, and recorded it somewhere at the

back of my brain.

The room looked great. I had a pool view! Bonus! I needed a drink of

water. There were no drinking glasses in the room. I went to the

bathroom. No drinking glasses there either. Eventually, I found 2

plastic cups. “This is unusual,” I thought to myself. By now, the little

things were starting to amplify in my brain. I didn’t realise it, but my

RAS – the Reticular Activation System in my brain – was starting to

get stimulated.

Your Reticular Activation System is the part of your brain that

controls how acutely aware you are to what is happening around

you. If you are a bird watcher, when you are outdoors, your RAS will

heighten your senses to the birds around you. If you are in the

market for a new car, say a BMW, then your RAS will attune your

senses to notice the BMWs on the roads. I could feel that a “What’s

wrong with this hotel?” reticular activation was starting to kick in.

Without me realizing it, my brain was now scanning my experience

to find out what was going wrong! I found that the series of little

things that were going wrong were being amplified in my mind.

One of the professional development sessions that I attended at the

TMI World Congress was on customer service design. We decided

to use the hotel as the case study. Little did I know what was about

to erupt. One person from Poland complained that she was so

distressed to arrive at night to a room that was pitch black – and she

couldn’t switch on the lights. A number of people – including me –

had the same experience! Another person from the UK said that the

hotel did not supply power adaptors for those with non-US electric

appliances. A number of people – including me – had the same

experience! A young consultant from Nigeria said that the check-in

person was unhelpful.

Your Reticular


System can

make you

acutely aware

of “what is

wrong” with

this business


©2010 TMI Consultancy Sdn Bhd | | Page 3 of 4

The stories kept coming. One participant from Australia said that

there were no mirrors in the elevators – and a number of women

chorused her complaint! The size of the problem kept amplifying. It

got bigger and bigger. The “unhappy customer” gong in my head

was hitting harder and harder. One of the women in the room got so

angry that she left the session and tried to check out of the hotel! I

found that the things that had first mildly annoyed me were now

amplified many times over. And my mind was now “looking” for more

little things that would go wrong! I have coined this term – where a

number of little things that “go wrong” combine to create major

customer dis-satisfaction – as The Amplification Effect.

Let’s step back and take an objective look at what happened. First,

millions and millions of dollars had been spent on this business. It

looked good, had comfortable facilities and a choice of food outlets,

and more. The business spent on a lot of time and money to get the

“big things” right. But the hotel lost sight of the “little things”. And it

was a combination of “little things” going wrong that led to their

impact being amplified more and more in the mind of the customer.

Taken in isolation, the little things may seem insignificant. Most

times, the customer won’t bother complaining about them. Many

people would consider themselves to be “petty” to be making a big

deal about them. After all, it was just a drinking glass! But when the

customer experiences a series of little things that go wrong and the

Amplification Effect sets in – then we have recipe for a very unhappy


When the Amplification Effect sets in, 1 little issue + 1 little issue + 1

little issue no longer add to 3 little issues. Rather, they amplify to

major customer irritation. And when the customer gets irritated, any

additional “little things” get amplified louder and stronger.

So here is the message for your business: you spend an enormous

amount of money on getting the “big things” right. Be equally vigilant

to make sure that you look after the little things. Focus on the little

details of your customer experience so that there is no chance of a

series of seemingly minor issues amplifying to a customer never

wanting to deal with your business ever again. Until next month!

Little things

that go wrong

amplify to





©2010 TMI Consultancy Sdn Bhd | | Page 4 of 4


Copyright © 2010 by George Aveling

Share the knowledge!  Please feel free to share this knowledge. You have

permission to distribute and copy this article providing you acknowledge George

Aveling, CEO of TMI, as the owner of the copyright.

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