Workplace Wisdom

Why Service Requires “I” Contact

The greeter at the door greets you. The barista hands you your drink. The host shows you to your table. The cashier takes your money. The usher takes your ticket and tells you where to go.

Each of these interactions holds the promise of a moment of human connection, a glimpse of community and mutual support. But too frequently, unfortunately, that promise goes unfulfilled.

When it comes to satisfying your service needs, sometimes all you want is the impersonal simplicity of the ATM machine or the airline kiosk. But there are times when you really want something more.

An Eye for an “I”

Think of how it feels when someone is looking at you to gauge your reaction, checking to see what you need, and smiling or not, as the circumstances warrant. Think of what they’re communicating: I see you. I’m glad you’re here. I value your presence. I’m eager to help. Thank you so much. You’re very welcome.

Now think of what this highly engaged service person might actually be feeling: I’m not just “labor” or a pair of hands. I take care of you. I provide a useful service. I matter in your day. You appreciate me!

And then think of how it feels — to both parties — when that connection is missed.

The Eyes Have It

Eye contact is so remarkably evocative that, as described in Psst. Look Over Here. in the May, 16 2014 New York Times, Cornell University researchers found that people are more likely to buy the brand of cereal whose box features a character looking straight out at them.

The proverbial idea that the eyes are the windows to the soul rings true. Neuroscience has shown that eye movement during eye contact lets us process another person’s intentions and feelings more accurately.

The literature of both child development and marriage counseling also makes clear the importance of eye contact, as it connotes hearing as well as seeing. Making eye contact is often the first step in acknowledgement and acceptance of another person.

Seeing Eye to “I”

Without eye contact, a welcome is less warm and the goodwill of an interaction is less good. How many people just walk away, thinking the counterperson doesn’t care? Or feel diminished and shut out when the desk agent fiddles with papers or the keyboard and never seems to notice the live customer standing just two feet away?

So don’t miss out on such a crucial part of the service relationship — or any face-to-face relationship. Pay attention. Look. See. Make “I” contact.

Onward and upward,

LK

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