Focus: The Secret to Samurai Customer Service

Business Woman FocusHas this ever happened to you?

I’ve just paid the clerk and I’m waiting for my change. The clerk is waving my two dollars  just out of reach like the cash is a worm and I’m a fish. Her head is turned away as she’s busy talking with one of her cohorts and can’t even spare the attention to look at me, hand me my money and say thank you.

She’s so oblivious she doesn’t even know I can’t reach my change without lunging over the counter to grab it- in which cash I may forsake the cash and grab her by the throat!

Next scenario…

I’m prowling the aisles of one of the big box home improvement stores looking for a very specific piece of trim I need to finish my backyard bar-b-cue shack. I stare in disbelief at a bin labeled “White Metal Corner-” which is filled with bare metal corners.

I finally capture a clerk who is armed with a high-tech scanning device. It takes a couple of attempts, he was busy scanning inventory, but I finally convince him to apply the power of his weapon to my search.

First- he looks at the bin and says…I kid you not… “These are supposed to be white.”

After swallowing a pint of bile, I ask him if he has any white ones out back and if not, could he check the next store- I’m willing to drive to get the job done.

At this point, he has completely forgotten that I’m even standing there. I could have hit him over the head with a readily available 2 x 4 and he would never have seen it coming.

Oblivious to me, he deploys his high-powered scanner, takes aim at the bar code, draws in a deep breath and declares: “This says these are white.”

End of story!

Whenever I’m doing a presentation with anyone in customer service, and I’d argue that every one of us is responsible for customer service, my focus is…

Focus!

When you’re dealing with a customer, your full attention belongs on that customer. There is nothing more important than the customer who is asking for your advice, your help- your attention.

When I’m teaching my 3 to 6 year old Little Dragons I yell, “What are the two most important words in karate?”

They yell back: “PAY ATTENTION!”

These kids could teach a customer service seminar!

“Pay attention” are the two most important words in customer service- and in most of life and business too.

Focus means eliminating distractions and assuring the customer that nothing is more important than serving them- that’s the spirit of the Samurai!

Here’s one more nightmare; see if this one feels familiar…

I’ve been seated at a crowded restaurant for about 20 minutes with no water and without even a knowing glance. These guys are giving new meaning to the word “waiter.”

I’m about to invoke my 2 minute rule: I’ll wait 2 more minutes and then I’m outta there!

Finally an obviously frazzled waiter comes to the table. I gently indicate that we’ve been waiting quite some time. No apology, just this irritated response:

“Well- we’re really slammed.”

“Slammed?” You mean you have the potential to make record breaking tips today? My heart bleeds.

I got up and left. I have never been back to that restaurant.

All it would have taken that day was a minimal effort. I was starving! I would have gladly put up with the wait had this server simply paid a little attention to us instead of focusing on his problems. He made it clear that his issues were far more important than serving us.

Excuses, conversations with other employees, stocking shelves, taking inventory…foreign invasion, tsunami or meteor strike- all distractions that must be put aside in the moment to pay full attention to the customer standing in front of you ready to part with his or her hard-earned.

You’ve got to master The Art of Black Belt Focus!

I want to leave on a positive note. Here’s a story about the power of focus in customer service:

I’m a big fan of Marriott properties and stay with them whenever possible in my travels. Here’s just one reason why:

When I’m New York I often stay at the downtown Marriott next to the World Trade Center site. Go there and you’ll find a bartender named Cindy.

Cindy treated my like family on my first visit. Noticing I was dining alone at the bar she struck up a sincere conversation. She asked about my business, where I was from and so on. She did this with every patron in her bar- and you could tell that this was her bar!

Fast forward a couple of trips and I was visiting with my wife. Cindy remembered that my wife was a dedicated foodie. As we enjoyed cocktails before lunch, Cindy arrived at our table with plate of specially prepared tuna- something not on the menu.

I was worried that I had not ordered any appetizers. Cindy just said, “This is on me, I thought your wife would enjoy it!”

Pay Attention!

Cindy remembered an insignificant piece of a conversation from two or three visits ago and turned that into an incredible customer service experience. I wrote her manager and made sure he knew the treasure he had on his staff!

Focus is a skill- a process that you can learn, train and practice. The Art of Focus saves time, increases productivity and improves creativity and innovation.

Focus is the most essential part of the customer service experience.

Everyone in your organization can learn The Art of Focus. Give me a shout!

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2 Comments

  1. I, too, have had great experiences with Marriott. Shortly after I was first diagnosed with celiac and a corn allergy, I attended a week-long convention at a Marriott property in Arizona. I let the hotel know before I arrived that I had food allergies and would need some adjustments to the meals planned for the event. When I arrived, a wonderful man from the event staff met with me. He took careful notes about what I could and could not eat. He checked in with me everyday to be sure I was getting what I needed. And he wasn’t the only one who looked out for me. On my first morning in the dining room, I explained to my waitress that I had food allergies. Everyday after that she made sure I was seated at one of her tables so that she could take care of me. Needless to say, I sent Marriott a letter to let them know how special these two employees were and how pleasant they had made my stay. That last part, I think, is really important. We really need to let employers know who the outstanding people are on their staffs. Positive reinforcement is the best guarantee of continued good performance.

    • Anne, thanks for sharing your story!

      I had another great Marriott experience a few weeks ago in Irving, Texas. If you visit there, look up Henok at the Irving Courtyard. He’s the manager of the bistro. He is a model of customer service excellence and should be doing seminars!

      Best Thoughts All and THANKS Marriott!


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