The psychology of perception

This tale is all about PERCEPTION

In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.

During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.
About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.

He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $200 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

  • This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

  • In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Joshua Bell at  Metro station

How do you perceive the things around you?

We understand that a lot of what we do in life is about presenting ourselves and what we can do in ways that make others perceive us positively.  

Associated Learning Systems offers a range of training CDs on telephone and communication skills for telesales, customer service and telemarketing personnel – aware that people prefer to trade with people they like. Make sure that’s you!

Find out more about our range of audio training products www.associatedlearningsystems.co.uk

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Another great book on the psychology of selling

A book I bought for holiday last year, which I thoroughly recommend is Predictable Irrationality by Dan Ariely.

It is not intended as a sales manual, but is more an insight into patterns of human (and therefore by extension customer) behaviour. As the title suggests, it explains that although we as buyers do extraordinary things and apparently act irrationally, much of it in fact is entirely predictable. How much would this benefit you as a sales person do you think ?

One tip I learned is the example of giving people 3 options. Set out 3 options and people will naturally drift towards the middle option. This gives you the opportunity to present the product or service you want them to go for (and which is realistic) as the middle option. Good stuff eh ?!

He also covers an example of comparing 3 items when two of them are similar (a luxury weekend in Paris, a ‘value’ weekend in Paris or a luxury weekend in Rome.) He talks about why a person will be likely to choose one of the Parisien weekends. But I’ll let you discover that one for yourself.

You will be able to buy this at all good bookstores, I got mine at Smiths, you can follow this link http://www.whsmith.co.uk/CatalogAndSearch/ProductDetails-Predictably+Irrational+-9780007256525.html

But happy reading and let’s make 2009 an informed year ! Knowledge is the new power !

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How to understand women (& men !)

One of the best books I’ve read on the subject is by Allan & Barbara Pease and I bought it on the strength of the title alone “Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps”

In my view, it is the book that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus should have been ! it is light and easy to read and is very funny in many places. You can buy it in paperback form from any reputable bookshop or online store. I bought mine at a local Waterstones, so I’ve added a link here. http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/displayProductDetails.do?sku=4596507 It is only £9.99 at this time and is strongly recommended.

Understanding that communication skills are different between the different sexes is both important and continously perplexing. So while you’re trying to pull your belt in at the beginning of this year, take some time out to read this well researched and humorous book ! 

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Get back to customers quickly !

Katrina attended a customer service course with us in Cambridge, and has written to give us the following story. It tells of how a company needs to be responsive. It is important that you follow up by calling customers back quickly, and don’t accuse them of lying.   

We cover the importance of the customer is king on CD 2 in the set on exceptional customer service. http://www.associatedlearningsystems.co.uk/product_detail.asp?ProdID=8    

Her story is as follows ; “Back in March I needed to fill up my home oil tank and so rang the company and asked for the cost of 700litres. I was told £360. I told them to go ahead & fill it up at which point they took my card details and put through the transaction.  

Two weeks later I was internet banking and I saw they had taken the money from my account for a total of £385!   I rang them and the girl kept saying that they had put in 750L like I asked. I told her to look at her notes as I have never, as yet put in 750 but always 700L. Basically she wasn’t having it and said she’d look into it on Monday and call me back.  

By 1pm on Monday I had heard nothing so I rang up. I spoke to a different person who was much more helpful and friendly. I explained that the invoice they put through the door stated £360 inc vat for 700L which is what I had asked for, but that I had since noticed further down this invoice, the delivery man had stamped it saying 750L. I then asked her what right they have to put oil in my tank that had not been ask for, take unauthorised money from my bank without my say so, and what guarantees have I got that I got that with the extra 50L that the chap hadn’t filled up a can near my oil tank for himself?  I also said that it is basically stealing and they have breached data protection (I was told this by my bank!). I told her that the oil delivery man should pay the £25 as he was not looking what he was doing.  She apologised profusely and said that as a gesture of goodwill for the mistake made, they would leave the extra oil in the tank and refund my £25.  

Had this lady not have been this understanding my bank had told me I could have taken this further through them. The first girl really was convinced I had ask for 750L even though so obviously my invoice said differently and she was not willing to look into it further. If I had not got this refund I would never have used this company again! Thankfully it turned out ok.  

This is a good story and it outlines some principles we should all stick to!�

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Use lots of acknowledgement on the telephone

Geraldine Evans contributed this one for the pot. She attended a 2 day customer service telephone communications skills course with us earlier this year in Leicester.  Her advice is ;  “Always make the customer aware that you are listening by acknowledging them at every opportunity and to re-cap what is to be done – this shows the customer that you are ‘taking on board’ the entire issue.”  

This is one of the 10 Elements of Communication that we cover on telephone techniques training. You can find out more by following this link http://www.associatedlearningsystems.co.uk/product_detail.asp?ProdID=12

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