The Pareto principle has always been an amazing truism for me. You may know it as the 80/20 rule. It is broadly applied. Eighty percent of the profits come from twenty percent of your customers. Eighty percent of the fleas come from twenty percent of the dogs. I made that last one up. But, you get the point. While the principle probably is as irrefutably a certainty as the law of gravity, it glosses over a key point when it comes to customer experience. All, twenty percents are not equal. Some are details…as in minutia. Is there salt on the restaurant table? And, some are super big details easily taken for granted.

I call these super important details “service air.” No one notices the air in the room until it is removed or threatened…and, then you can think of nothing else. The wonderful flight with great food, super-friendly flight attendants, and a comfortable seat will be completely erased from the customer’s memory if the flight lands in the wrong city or four hours late—a super big detail. It means taking care of the basics is required if a great service experience is going to be recalled by customers as great.

But, there is an even bigger issue with poor service detail management. When passengers lower a serving tray on an airline and notice coffee stains, their negative reaction might not be about a sloppy cabin maintenance crew. It could trigger an intuitive leap to the condition of the plane’s engine and a fearful concern that the plane might crash. The customer’s perceptions about a bus driver with obvious alcohol breath are not just about the driver’s personal habits. A nurse with dirty hands shows more to a patient than simply shoddy hygiene. And, a trashy parking lot might cause concerns about food preparation in the kitchen. Some details are much more significant than others. Some take customers straight to the core requirements they would prefer to take for granted.

Take a close look at the details of your customers’ experiences. Are there signals that leave customers worried about “big deal” core requirements? Are you a constant guardian of the details that feed your customers’ perceptions?