One of the biggest insults you can give someone you are talking to is to turn your back on them. This is a clear statement of, “I am not interested in you.” Of course, we all know this. So I am surprised at how often I see employees turn their back on their customers without even thinking about it. In fact, you may have set up your business so your employees MUST turn their back on their customers. That’s poor customer service. “Not at my business,” you say? Read on!
Recently, I did customer service training for a university dining facility that uses buffet lines. A movement in these services is to have the kitchen area more visible and make the product in front of customers. This can help add excitement and communicate freshness of the meal.
However, as I was picking up slices of pizza, I noted that the pizza-making station was positioned against the wall opposite from where customers were passing. This meant the person making the pizza had his back to his customers while preparing it. Not only does this indicate lack of interest, as previously noted, but his body blocked the view of what he was doing negating the value of making the pizza out front. It also hurt his ability to provide good customer service since he was facing away from his customers and could not easily observe or interact with them.
I saw the same thing happen at a specialty store recently when the clerk turned his back on my wife to use equipment that put a special gold seal on the bottle top of some high-priced vinegar she had purchased. Again, this is not a socially acceptable action, and it prevented my wife from seeing the extra effort the store was putting into the packaging of the product, thus lessening the value of their efforts.
A while ago, I went to a doctor to discuss a back pain problem. He had me sit on the examination table while he faced the computer that was situated against the wall across from me. I felt very odd as he sat with his back to me so he could type in answers and notes to questions he yelled out toward the wall in front of him for the next fifteen minutes.
I have also been guilty of this mistake. In my early days of speaking, I kept a table with water to my left but behind me on stage to allow me to freely move around without fear of hitting the table. However, as pointed out by a friend in the audience, this meant I turned my back to the audience whenever I got a drink.
Fixing Your Back Problem
The first step to a solution is to be aware of the problem. In various interactions, we and our employees may naturally turn our back to our customers out of convenience. If, however, we are aware of the issue, we can work to take more appropriate action.
Sometimes the solution involves a simple repositioning of equipment or work areas. For example, now when I speak professionally, my water table sits to one side but forward on the stage rather than behind me so I don’t have to turn my back on the audience to get a drink.
Sometimes space restrictions limit how work areas can be positioned (e.g., my doctor’s office was small, and positioning the computer across from the examination table was the only option). In these cases, we might be able to stand or sit to the side, occasionally look toward our customers or at least apologize for turning our back on them. A mirror placed on the wall could also be used to help facilitate eye contact.
You work so hard to get and keep your customers, it would be a shame to send signals that you don’t care about them. Check your interaction to see if you have a “back problem.” If you do, it’s time for an about-face.
May all your customers be devoted customers!
Dr. Dennis Rosen is the WinFluence® expert on customer service and sales improvement for retailers, service providers and sales professionals. More information is available at www.face2faceservice.com.
© 2014-2016 by Dennis L. Rosen.