I saw my neighbor out walking the other day. I hadn’t seen her in a while and the first thought to go through my mind the instant I saw her was “she’s lost weight.” As we drew closer and talked for a while, I realized that I wasn’t sure if she had or not. We weren’t talking about Biggest Loser territory. She just seemed a little slimmer. Her face seemed a little thinner…if that makes any sense.
About a week later, I found out from my wife that my neighbor had, indeed, started up at the gym and was seeing results from her new diet. My assessment, made in that instant before my brain had even had a chance to fully engage was spot on. My analysis that followed during our discussion was decidedly less certain.
This art of the instant assessment as made by the famous and the outrageously skilled, is the subject of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, Blink. How, he wondered, do great battlefield commanders or expert art appraisers come to conclusions so quickly when others would miss the mark even after exhaustive analysis.
To say that the subject is fascinating is an understatement. But the skill involved in making the assessment is only one half of the picture. The other half involves recognizing and respecting the intuition when it occurs.
I recently found myself thinking about Blink during Chris Fiacco’s presentation on The Art of WOW during a 2013 Drink ‘N Think. In one of our most engaging presentations, Chris talked about the distinction between a “loyal” client and one who is merely “satisfied.”
More to the point, Chris urged taking a hard look at one’s clients and customers to figure out whether they are “loyal” or instead, fall into the “at-risk” category. Chris’s point was that loyal customers – the ones who become referral sources – require more than just technical competence. What is required to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers is the unexpected. Everyone else, no matter how satisfied for the moment, is at-risk.
I disagree with Chris in only one respect. I’m not sure it takes a hard look to figure out who is at-risk. I think the assessment can be done in an instant. Look down your customer list. You know, don’t you? You may disagree with the reasons they are less than thrilled with you at the moment, but you know that they are.
The second part of the exercise is tougher. Now that you have identified your at-risk customers, what are you going to do about it? The answer has to be that you recognize and respect your intuition – your Blink – and take action. Put your team to work on developing a client rescue program tailor-made to address that particular client’s concerns. After all, if you don’t, they may be gone the next time you blink.