We are used to criticising inefficiencies in the government, but in recent weeks I have come across serious service deficits from companies in the private sector. They range from small businesses failing to keep to commitments, to an extraordinary inability to change a delivery address on the part of the company that distributes this newspaper.

These are failures in the daily management of small things — such as the electrician failing to respond to my messages and then, when we finally did agree a time, not arriving. So I now have a new electrician of the kind who values his job more highly than the previous one. It is very often the small things that the customer notices and values. Managers would do well to check from time to time with their staff whether these small things get done well...

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