July 2012

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff

 

Peripheral Vision: See, Sense and Anticipate

You're in a restaurant, waiting for someone to take your drink order.

Scanning the room, you see plenty of employees. Finally, the waiter arrives and takes your order.

You're hungry and would like some of that bread the party at the next table who were seated after you is enjoying. After a long wait, the drinks arrive, and you order dinner (still no bread). The long waits and empty water glasses are in stark contrast to this restaurant's reputation.

You finish your meal and just want to go home. Now you're waving your napkin trying to catch your waiter's eye for the check. To avoid having to wait a minute longer, you have your credit card out to give the waiter when you ask for the check. Great food. Bad service. Zero peripheral vision.

Extraordinary customer service, whether in person, by phone or online, is all about being hypersensitive to the needs of others. I call it "peripheral vision."

It's the ability to see, sense and anticipate all that's happening around you -- and respond instantly. Great companies excel at creating service cultures where its collective peripheral vision is honed to perfection. It's all about delivering the best experience at every touch point.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to polish up and widen your company's peripheral vision:

It starts at the top: Peripheral vision starts with leadership. But for leaders, peripheral vision extends far beyond the ability to see all that's around you. It means nurturing and protecting the company's customer-service vision. If it's not right, fix it. If it needs to be done, do it. If follow-through is an issue, address it. If standards need to be raised, raise them. If you have a toxic player on your team, what are you waiting for? No-compromise leaders strive for excellence, not mediocrity.

Everything speaks: My friend Dennis Snow, author of Unleashing Excellence, says, "When it comes to customer service, everything speaks." Everything around you is speaking to you. That cobweb on the light fixture, the stressed-out guest who needs some TLC, the tone in someone's voice, the employee who can use another pair of hands -- everything speaks. Peripheral vision sees everything -- and engages without hesitation. (Unleashing Excellence is available in the Strategies bookstore.)

Everyone is responsible: The death blow to extraordinary customer service is when anyone in your company says or thinks, "It's not my job." When it comes to customer service and creating the right memorable experiences, it's everyone's job. Teamwork is about everyone pulling and pushing in the right direction, not dragging self-centered, egotistical and lazy non-players along for the ride. Indifference and "I don't care" thinking kills companies. If an employee isn't playing to be indispensable, he or she is dispensable.

Train to see differently: Peripheral vision comes naturally to some while others need to develop their skills. What's your training program look like? Nike can get away with "Just do it" in their advertising, but those words mean little in the world of customer service. What does anticipating needs look like in your company? How do you read body language? How should team members respond to specific customer problems? What words should they use and which should they avoid? Extraordinary customer service is a planned and orchestrated outcome. What's your plan?

Sense of urgency: Urgency is energy. Urgency keeps you and your company in the game. So, grab your company's sense of urgency dial and turn it up. Wake up everyone on your team. Reconnect with your vision for extraordinary customer service. Rebuild your vision if that's what's needed. Play to win. Challenge yourself as a leader. Challenge your team to be as good as your marketing claims you are. Blow your customers away by delivering the unexpected. Thriving in the world of extraordinary is hard work. That's why so few even try.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the salon and spa industry. His is author of Fast Forward, No-Compromise Leadership and Wake Up! For signed copies, go to www.strategies.com. You can email Neil at neil@strategies.com.