Over the weekend I entered a high-end, well-known retail store. You would know the brand.

The store was busy, but not busy enough that at least two employees, looked at me yet neglected to greet or even crack a smile. I spent the next five minutes awkwardly shopping as I waited for someone to help me.

When I finally got some help, the associate was apparently in a bad mood, but she helped me find what I was looking for. When it was time to pay, the employee at the cash register made no eye contact, couldn’t smile, and awkwardly passed along my bag of purchases and told me to have a good day.

I ended up buying something, but the experience left me sour, and I wondered how many sales (both first time and repeat) the store lost because of the poor experience created by the staff.

How many other customers left without buying, feeling the same way as I did?

How many people entered willing to buy, but let because nobody seemed to care?

How many bought but vowed not to return or write about their experience?

This isn’t idle speculation – this is the kind of question that’s easy to answer, and companies that aren’t asking it & taking action on what they find are losing more and more to their competitors.

The way to address this is something I’ve talked about a lot before–making liberal use of Internal Benchmarking. 

Internal benchmarking is essentially measuring you against yourself. In every company, there are people who are more successful than average, and those who are less so.

By identifying the differences in those who are more successful, you can develop more targeted training, set goals that everybody in the company can believe in and quickly find the distinctions that are responsible for success, or failures, and those which are peculiar to your high performers.

My father-in-law shared an article with me yesterday from The New Yorker about a company who created four simple buttons to internal benchmark a variety of businesses by simply asking customers the basic question of: Were you happy or not with your experience? 

Press the big happy emoji if you’re thrilled.

Press the slightly happy emoji if you’re okay.

Press the slightly angry emoji if you’re not as happy.

Press the bright red and angry emoji if you’re completely satisfied.

The companies then look at the data and find very useful, but simple insights.

For example, in one business, they looked at the security footage for all the times that customers left utterly unsatisfied. Sure enough, they found an employee who slogged through the first hour of their shift.

The solution? More training for that employee.

The result? After the extra training, people left happier.

In another example, they took the managers from stores that had the highest satisfaction and moved them to the stores with the worst. Sure enough, almost instantly, the formerly poorly rated stores were near the top of the customer satisfaction scores. In effect, they were able to wipe away any other excuses and show that the performance ratings were DIRECTLY tied to the manager’s actions (or lack thereof).

The point isn’t that what they found was simple, or that they should have already known this stuff – the point is that they’d finally found a way to identify exactly what was happening that was costing them sales, and were able to make course corrections.

When we work with clients to introduce internal benchmarking initiatives, we’re not always relying on buttons but looking at things like revenue, sales data or the less obvious places like tips in a restaurant (instead of comment cards).

Wherever we look, our findings mirror that of the HappyOrNot team – it almost always comes down to drop dead simple things that have been allowed to pass unnoticed until now.

There has never been a better time for companies of all sizes to be engaging in internal benchmarking.

Finding the places where profits are directly tied to the capability of your people allows you to enhance training, create better policies, and put better management practices in place to directly and dramatically affect your net profits.

If you have a role that has P&L responsibility, and you’re not exploring how to begin or enhance your internal benchmarking program, then you are committing corporate malpractice.

Your challenge for this week should be obvious: Find an area that you can measure your people against each other, identify the superstars, and run experiments to see if they are getting the best results because of what they do, or some external factor (IE by switching them with the lowest performer and seeing how the scores do).