This is reposted with permission

Have you ever had a customer service experience where you felt like your mind was being read? Like someone knew what you were going to ask for, or was thinking about, or felt before you had the opportunity to voice it. Now that’s exceptional service! It does beg the question, how can you engage your senior care and living team in reading the needs of customers?

In a recent USA TODAY article, by Charisse Jones entitled Hotel staff “reads” guests’ needs, Jones shares how the hotel industry is investing in staff development in reading body language as a pathway to personalized service. The staff at the Affinia hotel with locations in New York, Chicago and Washington, has engaged everyone from housekeeping to management in learning how to tailor their interaction with guests based on body language.

This may seem a little farfetched… or is it? Remember the pain smile scale? In a sense, isn’t that what healthcare providers do. Gauge the patient’s pain based upon where they fit on the scale. Or what about responding to call lights for instance. If Mrs. Smith always has to go the bathroom one hour after lunch, why does the staff wait until she uses her call light to take her? What if they started anticipating her needs based upon understanding her personal habits. Or what about the “daughter” that needs constant reassurance that her parents who moved into the independent living apartment are really doing ok…why wait for her to call, why not anticipate her “needs” and move beyond talking about great service, to actually delivering it.

A body language expert trained the hotel employees on what cues to look for. A guest who makes eye contact while walking down the hall, for instance, may be open to conversation. A busy corporate trekker constantly tugging on an ear is probably stressed and may be interested in a yoga kit-or perhaps a therapeutic pillow from the hotel’s pillow menu.

Employees were taught to mirror a guest’s volume and rhythm of speech to put him at ease. They learned that if guests are constantly touching their faces, it’s a likely sign they’re anxious after a long day of meetings or travel. Jan Freitag, senior vice president of Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotels, says of the effort: “Anything that ultimately gives better customer service is to be applauded.”

So true! Whether it’s reading body language or understanding behavior patterns (through the DiSC Behavior Assessment which CISCO & CO uses in our development programs), any development that helps staff to make better connections with their customers can only lead to customer service beyond what is expected.

What tools or initiatives have you experienced success with when engaging your staff to a higher level of customer service?

By Patty Cisco, Creative Catalyst for CISCO & CO. For effective marketing, sales and customer strategies that connect you with your customers visit