There is tremendous value in striving to adopt your customer’s perspective.
Take the example of my recent experience of closing time at a bar downtown…
The lights always come on a half hour before “closing time,” which really means that they’re going to do just about everything in their capacity to clear the place in fifteen minutes. The problem, however, was that at the moment the lights went on, we had only just ordered our drinks fifteen minutes before.
It mattered little to the waiter who’d just served them to us, who came over and bellowed, “alright, guys, wrap it up! You guys need to get out! Finish your drinks.”
I turned and looked squarely at him.
I didn’t have to wonder whether or not I was going to say something.
I knew I was going to, and I knew what it was going to be:
“You’re speaking to us like this right now,” I said to him, “because you’re assuming that we’re drunk.”
I paused. “We’re not. And we’re not bothering you, so we’d like to enjoy the drinks that we bought.”
Still in his “closing time” mode, however, he pointed out, coldly: “Lights are on, folks.”
“We know they are.” I answered, undeterred. “But they weren’t on when you sold us these drinks… And when you a buy a drink, with it comes the privilege of enjoying as quickly – or slowly – as you’d like. So I think you should let us have the next few minutes to do that.”
Finally getting my point, he didn’t saying anything in response, and instead turned and left.
We cleared our seats, as promised, before the 2 am closing time.
As we walked out through the door he was holding open, he apologized to me.
“It’s okay,” I tendered. “You’re just doing your job.”
It’s not okay, however, that “doing your job” necessitates that you treat your customers this way.
When you’re the server in this situation, you have a pretty simple position. For you, this is just another Saturday night. And all you’re thinking about is stacking the chairs we’re still occupying and sweeping the floors beneath them.
But what you don’t realize is that for me – and I think my sentiment reflected that of my companions – this is the one night I’m in town, which is my hometown. And right now I’m spending it with some of my favorite people, whom I’ve haven’t seen in six months. All I want to do right now is enjoy the rest of my beer – at the exact pace I’d like to enjoy it – and try to make these final minutes last as long as possible before we have to say goodbye for what is very likely going to be another six months.
We, as people, have multitudes to gain from embracing others’ perspectives.
And we, in business, have almost as much to gain from acknowledging those held by our customers. Had he taken a moment to understand my position in the situation before imposing his own priorities on our group, he could have saved face – both for himself and the company.
This scenario is very common in late-night drinking establishments. For all intents and purposes, it’s an industry standard, and customers accept the dynamic as part of the transaction.
Imagine, however, if the customer’s priorities were always taken into consideration.