In customer service, digital distraction spells death

By Micah Solomon – keynote speaker, customer service speaker, customer service consultant, and #1 bestselling author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.” Visit with Micah at


Digital distraction among your customer-facing staff spells death.

It’s death to customer relationships, as in a recent hotel check-in: Nothing feels more deadening to a customer after an all day, cross-continent trek than being received by a front desk attendant who can’t stop web-surfing long enough to make eye contact.

And it can even mean literal death: My family and I stayed at one of the very famous family-oriented resorts, in a hotel by a swimming pool and not one, but two shifts worth of lifeguards were obsessing over their cell phones while ostensibly guarding the pool.

Even if the swimmers survive in scenario #2, it’s important to understand:  The company’s image isn’t going to.  Not in these cases, nor when the captain on the wood-masted Historical Society schooner cruise is ordering carryout on his cell while handling the ship’s wheel with one hand, with 25 passengers aboard (I was one of those 25 passengers last summer). Nor will it when flight attendants are cuing up text messages even if they have “nothing to do at the moment” (as I’ve had the misfortune to observe on three [3] flights so far this year). So, the plane didn’t go down from their inattention this time. But someone’s coffee cup didn’t get refilled because there was no way for the txting attendants to pick up visual cues from passengers..and everyone on the plane who witnessed the episode was left with a skeevy feeling.

These episodes really create the brand–a lot more than what we have traditionally called “marketing.” The web-surfing no-eye-contact check-in agent at the hotel single-handedly damaged a brand his co-workers had worked so hard to build, interaction by interaction.  Guests treated this way will hardly feel next time around that this is the hotel brand they want to check in to, “historical” sail they’ll want to plunk down money for, airline they feel comfortable flying on.  And – if they’re anything like me – they’ll spend their family vacation money anywhere other than at the resort that didn’t guard their kids properly at the pool, no matter how many laughing, sun-filled images the marketing department churns out in its ads and brochures.