On a recent trip to Minneapolis, my wife and I went to Hell’s Kitchen restaurant where we saw this amazing sign on the wall that read: these are the worst seats in the house.
You know the ones. They're next to the server station or they're next to the door so you feel the draft each time, or the worst: they're next to the bathroom, so you have to look at each person who walks out the door and wonder if they’ve washed their hands.
At most restaurants, they don't warn you about these seats when they put you there. They hope you don’t notice, or just are nice enough not to say anything.
But not this restaurant. This one tells you straight up: these seats are going to suck. You have to climb into the seats and you might fall out of them. You're next to the kitchen chaos and all the staff is flying by. You have no privacy because everyone is reading this sign.
Think about everything the restaurant is accomplishing with this brilliant piece of honesty. By telling you up front what YOU’LL eventually discover, they take ownership of the situation and eliminate the obvious complaints.
They take charge of shaping your perceptions. Instead of harboring resentment, they get you to embrace the awfulness of the situation up front and in fact, make you feel extra special for doing so. They even give you a free dessert!
As a magician, I've used the act of acknowledging what people may be thinking to alleviate their worries and break the ice.
When approaching a group of people I haven’t met, if I sense hesitation in their eyes, they probably think I’m gonna be a cheesy or bad magician. So I’ll say something like:
“I’m the magician tonight. I’m really terrible, so I have to pay you to act amazed. Are hundred dollar bills okay?”
They laugh because I just said exactly what they’re thinking. By saying it first, I take away that negativity from them. Instead of hiding their assumptions, I bring them out in the open so we can acknowledge them and move past them.
So, how can you use this in YOUR business? Acknowledging what YOUR customers, clients, patients or guests may be thinking up front creates a more authentic interaction.
Does your business have a bunch of long steps leading to the entrance? Hang a plaque congratulating your visitors on the number of calories they've burned.
Do you have a parking garage with a couple of really tight spots? Put up a sign that says "Experienced Parkers Only."
Does your office building have embarrassingly outdated bathrooms? Frame signs facing each toilet documenting the "History of These Hallowed Stalls."
Is there another kind of negative reaction or response you're hearing from customers that you want to eliminate?
Acknowledge it up front and you take away the ammunition for anger.
Acknowledge it up front and show them that their entire experience is under your control.
If you can make them laugh, while overcoming what would otherwise be a negative perception, that's even better.
Kudos to the restaurant for acknowledging the awful seats and for doing it in a fun, authentic and memorable way.
So, now it’s your turn, how will you turn your business flaws into features?