Measuring the Mood


Now and again I read an article that takes my breath away. Taking the Measure of Mood by Patrick O’Connell appeared in the March 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review and it did just that.

The idea is simple and has powerful ramifications for our region.

But first, a little background. The author is a chef at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia. Their goal is to provide customers with nothing less than a transformative experience.

They do so by training their staff to be keenly observant and sensitive to guests’ words and behaviour–especially to body language. They also developed a system for tracking and communicating this information to everyone who needs it.

They are trained to quickly evaluate the mood of a party, by using the indicators that we all use–body language, eye contact, voice tone, etc. They start off by assigning the party an initial score on a scale of 1 to 10, and logging that score into their database.

They go to work on those parties that enter the establishment with low scores to increase this subjective assessment to at least a 9.

They use common facilitation skills — asking questions, paraphrasing, clarifying, asserting, etc. Actually, they use ALL the means at their disposal to increase the score, including the choice of waiter, speed of service, taste of entrees, seating, music, etc.

They consider the job done when the customer volunteers their personal story, which for the staff is the proof that an emotional connection has occurred.

While I have tackled the issue of customer experience creation at different points in this this blog — click here to see a page of past Chronicles entries on the topic — this takes things to another level.

Something about this article brings me home to our region. In the past year, I have spent nights at hotels in a variety of countries, and there is truly something distinct about the service we render here in the Caribbean.

In other posts, I have referred to it as “Friend Service.” This is the closest I can come to describing the feeling that happens when an emotional connection is made, and the switch is turned ON with a Caribbean customer service provider.

(When the switch is OFF, by contrast, the experience is positively painful.)

This article has led me to think that a service provider who is emotionally intelligent, is better able to read the mood of a person or group of people However, if I use the definition of Emotional Intelligence that I have been using lately, that explanation seems inadequate.

How to define the skill is the next problem I’ll be tackling, but my instincts tell me that we have an advantage over service providers in other cultures, for whatever reason, in detecting the unspoken experience that other people are having. I am guessing that this advantage carries over into the customer service profession.

I have my theories regarding slavery, our education system or our parenting styles that are my best guesses, but I will be exploring the subject further in future posts, and in my work.