We’ve all seen it. Maybe we’ve all done it. But it’s a harbinger of things to come. Actually, it’s a microcosm of what’s already here.
You’re in an elevator, and a person walks in – may or may not look at you – and is staring intently at their smart phone. They look up just fast enough to ensure their floor’s button is hit, and then they’re back to their phone.
You’re walking down the street or at the mall, and as you do your window shopping you notice that you’re spending as much time dodging people who are so intently focused on their phone that they assume everyone will just get out of their way. Or maybe they don’t care if they bump into you. Or maybe they don’t realize they’re walking by hundreds of people – because people are secondary to the feed on the phone or the latest notification or the latest picture of a dessert that a friend posted on social media.
I was watching a golf tournament recently where fans were behind the ropes as famous golfers walked right past them. The fans were so busy looking at their phones and filming the golfers that they didn’t make eye contact with the golfers, they didn’t say “hello” or “good luck” or “the sky sure is blue.” They didn’t engage the person that was a foot away from them because they’d rather just take their picture and post it on social media.
This looking down, this lack of engagement is an habitual obstacle for many who want to shine in the business world, but the good news is that their obstacle is a future differentiator for you.
People who are more focused on the phone in the hand than the human in front of them are not learning how to engage in a 1-on-1 personalized fashion. They’re not learning about body language and tone, they’re not learning how to make someone else feel important – more important than a 3 by 5 inch inanimate object.
These individuals – and we all know them, are related to them, or may be them – are largely good people, but they’re not developing a key skill of customer service: Making the person in front of you seem like the most important person in that world.
Your future differentiator is your ability to ignore your phone or your tablet. It’s your ability to engage others personally and professionally in dialogue – making the individual more important than the technology.
Become great at ignoring the technology when engaged with others, and become a star communicator in the eyes of those you serve.