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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Becoming acutely aware of the obvious

This is a Reposting this article from
by Steve Curtin

In 1997 I heard Dr. Chip Bell speak on the topic of customer service.
My most vivid memory from his talk was a question he posed to 70 members of our management team:

“How many of you,” he asked, “have worked here for 90 days or more?”
Surveying the room as nearly everyone raised a hand, Dr. Bell said, “You’re blind.”

He went on to make the point that, after you have worked in the same environment for 90 days or more, it’s easy to become conditioned and overlook shortcomings that our customers notice as glaring deficiencies while forming their first impressions.

And first impressions matter.

I’ve read that, in forming their initial impressions, customers make 11 different decisions in the first seven seconds of contact.

Of course, no one is claiming they are making 11 accuratedecisions in the first seven seconds. They’re really making inferences—forming opinions based on known facts or evidence. Perception really is everything.

Reader challenge: Look at the door handle at the top of this post. What type of business do you think operates on the other side of this door? Take the next seven seconds or so to study it.

When I shared this picture with others, I received a variety of responses:
  • Junkyard
  • Warehouse
  • Storage unit
  • Janitor’s closet
  • Frank’s Auto Repair
  • Garbage collection
  • Bookie’s office
  • Rural feed store
  • Crack house
  • Pawn shop
  • Jail
  • Morgue
Last weekend, my son attended a friend’s seventh birthday party at Jungle Quest in Littleton, CO.

For the uninitiated, Jungle Quest is a popular destination for themed birthday parties where young “explorers” can, according to its website, “zoom on ziplines, buzz over Burma bridges, swerve on swings, and ratchet up rock walls.”

Like most themed events, the goal is for participants to be swept into an altered environment—one that transports them from the routine and ordinary to the unique and extraordinary. And customers are willing to pay a premium for these experiences.

Everything communicates. From the moment a customer accesses a website, reaches a telephone rep, pulls into a business’s parking lot, or (dare I say) reaches to open its front door, decisions are being made and impressions are being formed.

Leave nothing to chance! Seize every conceivable opportunity to positively influence customer perception and fulfill the experience conveyed in your marketing message.

Or, better yet, pleasantly surprise your customers by providing the unexpected, such as a textured door handle resembling a jungle vine—as opposed to Jungle Quest’s actual front door handle pictured above!

Whatever you do, don’t get too comfortable and turn a blind eye to opportunities to improve the customer experience.

Parents, for instance, should be able to easily distinguish between the location of their child’s birthday party and, say, a crack house or pawn shop.

So what are your company's blind spots ?

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