Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Improving your powers of observation, part of Innovative Customer Service Techniques.
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- Customer service requires an eye for detail. It might be fixing a problem before a customer notices, anticipating an opportunity to go the extra mile, or simply noticing a customer with that "I need help" look. Unfortunately, our brains sometimes trick us into missing these details. This video will show you how this happens and provide some ideas to prevent it, but first I'd like to try to clear your mind with a little magic trick. There are six cards on the screen. I'd like you to pick one of them and focus on it. Try to concentrate on the card so intently that the other cards start to blur.
Now I'm going to take the cards off the screen. When I do, I want you to remember you card. Okay, do you have it? Try to see your card in your mind's eye. Now, I've made a prediction about which card you will choose. I'm going to put the cards back up on the screen, but I've made your card disappear. Let's see if I get it right. If you look carefully, you'll see that your card is missing. Okay, how did I do the trick? Some people figure it out right away, and if that's you, you're one of the few.
If you don't know how I did it, here's the secret. None of the cards in group one were in group two. That guaranteed that whichever card you selected would be missing when I showed you the second group of cards. The reason most people don't catch on to my little trick is something called inattentional blindness. This occurs when we focus so hard on something that other things become hidden in plain sight. Let me give you a customer service example. I once arrived at a hotel a bit early for check-in. The associate at the front desk told me my room wasn't quite ready, but it would be ready in about 30 minutes.
I told her I would wait in the lobby, and she promised to let me know as soon as my room was ready. I took a seat right in front of the desk about 20 feet away. I sat there waiting for about 45 minutes before I finally approached the desk to find out what was taking so long. It turned out that my room was ready. The associate had just forgotten me. How could someone forget a guest sitting right in front of them? It's the same reason that my little card trick usually works. The associate was absorbed in her work. She'd answered phones, checked in guests, helped out her coworker, and did work on her computer.
She became so absorbed that she no longer saw anything that wasn't right at her counter. We all have inattentional blindness from time to time. Our daily work is full of distractions that can cause us to lose sight of our customers' most important needs. So, how do we overcome inattentional blindness? There are a few things you can do. One is to prioritize service. Now, this seems like it might be common sense, but our attention spans are tricky. See if you can catch yourself at those times when you aren't giving your customers your full attention.
Another tip is to periodically change focus. That means occasionally stepping away from whatever task you're working on and see if anyone else needs your assistance. The hotel associate would've seen me if she had made a point to scan the lobby every few minutes to see if any guests needed help. A third tip is to move to a different activity from time to time so you don't get stuck and develop tunnel vision. For example, if you are working on a complex problem for a customer, you might step back once in awhile and see if a few other customers need help.
We all run the danger of developing tunnel vision from time to time. The best way to avoid it is to maintain your awareness.
- Identifying the most important customer need
- Making wait time more bearable
- Improving your power of observation
- Avoiding directed attention fatigue
- Increasing teamwork