The Progression of Perception

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Successful customer service is all about meeting and exceeding your customers’ expectations on a consistent basis. This is actually very simple to accomplish. However, most customer service experiences in the country today fall short of the customer’s expectations.

Why is that? Why is it so difficult for so many businesses to achieve a consistently exemplary level of customer service and satisfaction?

The issue is not with trying, for the most part. Almost any business out there wants their customers to be happy with the service and satisfied with the product they offer. Most have some form of policy and procedure covering most typical customer-employee interactions.

The issue is with energy. Every customer-employee interaction is pre-charged with energy. The energy between the two of them is localized by the act of coming into contact with one another. Where and how that energy travels through the course of the interaction, from the moment they meet until the moment they part ways — when the energy creates its final reaction — is what determines the overall success of the experience for both the customer and the employee.

The only key to where the energy will flow throughout the customer-employee experience is attention — the customer’s attention. Wherever your customer’s attention is focused is exactly where the energy is going to flow.

Where Attention Goes, Energy Follows

One of my favorite maxims for many years has been, “The customer’s perception is our reality.” To be able to deliver a winning presentation to your customer that results in them following your recommendation, you must be able to manage your customer’s perceptions.

Your customer’s perception of the quality of your service recommendations, as well as the service and any products they purchase from you, is 100-percent the result of their perception. What you think of your presentation, or anything else, is totally meaningless. Even if you know your customer is absolutely misinformed about something, yet will not accept the truth about the matter, it makes no difference.

For example, checking and adjusting the air pressure in the customer’s tires is probably a part of your service offering. You probably do it on every vehicle quickly and without much fuss. Let’s say that a particular customer comes to your shop for an oil change and she also specifically wants you to check the tires, for she has a feeling one of them may need some air. During the course of your greeting with her, gathering all of her pertinent information and getting the service started, she simply forgets to ask you to check them — it has slipped her mind temporarily. During the course of the full-service oil change, her tires are indeed checked and one tire found to be quite underinflated, just as she had earlier suspected. The technician adds enough air to bring this tire to the proper safe air pressure, just like he did with the rest of her tires — just like he does with every car, every day, all day long. Throughout the course of her service with you, you and she talk about many things: The fluids you topped off, the items you checked that may need to be replaced and the fluid services that may need to be performed on the vehicle. She then considers your recommendations, makes her choices and you consequently go about fulfilling those items and services. Once the services are complete and your final safety checks are completed, your cashier then prepares her receipts and you cash her out. She happily pays her bill, you safely guide her out with a friendly send-off and then move on to your next customer.

As the customer is driving down the road shortly after leaving your establishment, she suddenly realizes she forgot to ask you to check her tires. Your dutiful technician did check and adjust her tires, just as he was supposed to, but he never mentioned to her — and she never noticed he was doing it. Since you never mentioned anything about the tires to her during your run-down of the items you checked, she is now thinking that she is still driving down the road with a dangerously under-inflated tire. This is her perception.

Her perception is your shop did not check and adjust her tires as she wanted. The truth of the situation is your shop actually did check and adjust her tires for her. Ultimately, her belief your shop did not check or adjust her tires is the only reality she is concerned about: her perception. To her, that is the truth, her truth and the only one that matters, since she is the paying customer.

The fact you actually did check the tires is meaningless in the customer-satisfaction sense of the entire endeavor. You checked them, she doesn’t know about it and she believes it wasn’t done. This is no different to the customer’s perception than if you had failed to check the tires. Her perception makes the fact of checking the tires or not irrelevant to her satisfaction with your service. Her belief — what she thinks happened — is the only concern. In this way, her perception truly becomes your reality.

This is just one random example of how the energy of an interaction with your customer is not focused where you want and need it to be. When you manage your customer’s perceptions, you control the flow of energy within that experience.

So, how do you manage your customer’s perceptions?

The Progression of Perception

When you successfully manage your customer’s perceptions, the energy of the interaction will flow and take effect exactly where you want it. It isn’t random, and there is nothing left up to chance. You control and influence the customer’s perceptions through your words and deeds. You decide where the energy of the interaction is going to be released.

The Progression of Perception (PoP) is a four-step process:

·           Awareness

·           Attention

·           Feelings

·           Thoughts


1. Awareness

The first step is to make sure your customer is aware of what item, service, part or procedure on their vehicle you are talking about. It is very important in this step to understand and make the distinction between making the customer aware of what you are talking about versus telling them anything significant about an item or service.

 For instance, a proper awareness statement might be, “I also checked your transmission fluid level for you today.”

 An incorrect opening would be, “Oh, and your transmission appears to be in need of a fluid flush.”

 Remember, you are only directing their attention — and the energy — during this first step of the PoP.


2.     Attention

When done properly, step No. 1 will result in your customer’s attention on what you deem the focal point for them. The energy of the experience is exactly where you want it and where it will be the most productive for you.

This is now the opportune time for you to draw your customer’s attention to this item through your presentation techniques. Understanding and delivering both the features and benefits of your recommended item or service in a concise, informative and compelling manner is how you take the general focus of the energy within this presentation and laser-focus it at precisely this moment. You should now have the full and rapt attention of the customer, focused exactly where you want it.


3.     Feelings

With the level of focus being expended by your customer on this item, which increases the intensity of the energy present, your customer will definitely have some deep-seated feelings about this item that might affect them in an emotional manner.

If, for instance, you are making a transmission flush presentation, they may have some conflicting emotions about what you have already told them. Not about you or your presentation, but about the particular aspects of the service.

This is where the rule of opposites comes naturally and beautifully into play. When you tell your customer a complete transmission fluid flush will help to prolong the life of their transmission (a benefit), the rule of opposites within their thought process tells them if they choose not to follow your recommendation and get the flush today, they are risking a shortening the life of their transmission.

This sets up an uncomfortable contradictory dichotomy within the customer’s thoughts: On the one hand, proceeding with the transmission flush will alleviate their concern over the matter, but on the other hand, if they decide not to get the flush done, they intensify their mental agitation and concern over possibly shortening the life and durability of their transmission. These are strong feelings. The energy of this experience is now a tightly bound ball of intense focus.


4.    Thoughts

The intense feelings focused in your customer’s mind locks the energy in place. They will have one overriding desire above all others at this precise moment in time: To resolve the issue at hand and to alleviate the contradictory dichotomy causing them to experience some discomfort over the two choices available to them.

The energy of your relationship with your customer at this time is narrowly focused and will encourage them to engage in a singular thought process: Pick the choice that makes them most comfortable.

If you have delivered your presentation skillfully, they will be far more inclined to choose the course of action you have recommended.

However, the customer always chooses the option that makes them the most comfortable, 100 percent of the time. If you have focused their attention, and thus the energy of the experience, correctly, they will be far more likely to choose the course of action you have recommended.

Consequently, if the option they choose makes them the most comfortable, yet contradicts what you have recommended, you have failed to focus their attention, and the energy, effectively during your presentation.

Master these concepts, put them into play with every customer. They work.

As with all things in life, only your desire can enable you to do things others think are impossible. Your confidence in yourself — or lack thereof — are the only limiting factors in your success and happiness.

Like always…make it happen!

See ya’ next month.

KIT SULLIVAN is a partner in a multi-unit, Florida-based quick lube company. A 20-year veteran of the industry, Sullivan has more than 28 years experience in sales and management training. He is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers. He can be reached via email:








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