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Making the Deli Experience Deliberate

At The CP Journal we teach the process of determining the baseline for any given area and situation to improve people’s situational awareness. The process involves two primary steps for any area that you operate in – the hasty search and the deliberate search. Last month, in various blog posts, we outlined the hasty search and used some scenarios that occur in daily life to explain how to best to practice it and make it your own.   As a reminder, the hasty search is the first step that anyone can take to set his or her baseline for the area. It involves assessing the collective mood as positive or negative and then confirming that assessment by observing the individual people in the area. This month we are continuing to expand on the baselining process by highlighting the deliberate search. The purpose of this post is to describe the deliberate search process using an environment that many people are accustomed to, the grocery store deli counter.

Before we begin, it is worth noting that the deliberate search is more detailed than the hasty search. The goal of the deliberate search is to identify the underlying patterns that present themselves in any given situation that you find yourself in, which makes it easier to identify anomalies. Because pattern recognition takes patience, the deliberate search requires time and practice.   Once you build your deliberate search skills, they can be repeated over and over again everywhere you go.

The grocery store or supermarket is familiar territory for most people. They are familiar with how the store operates and understand the layout of the deli area in relation to the rest of the store. The process at the deli counter is pretty cut and dry. People approach the area to order meats, cheeses, cold cuts, and salads. People form a queue and wait for attention from someone behind the counter to take their order. Customers then add those items to their carts and continue shopping in other areas of the store. The deli area within the grocery store is usually uniform and offers a repeatable setting that exists in most areas of the country, which makes it a great place to practice the deliberate search because you can consistently see the same interaction over and over again.

The steps to the deliberate search that I will outline here are as follows: map the area, identify all possible personas for people that will go through the area, set expectations for the best process to accomplish your task, identify potential anomalies, and plan for those anomalies. In the notes that follow, I have laid out some common language to help you better understand the deliberate search and how it can applied to any area using the deli counter as an example.

Mapping the Area

When beginning the deliberate search process, mapping the area involves breaking down the setting into two categories. There are habitual areas and anchor points. Habitual areas are places where anyone is free to come and go as they please. The general area at the deli counter is a habitual area because shoppers are free to come and go as they please and since it is an area where anyone can enter and exit as often as they’d like.

For the purposes of your deliberate search there is one primary anchor point around the deli counter. An anchor point is an area of your environment where not everyone can come or go as they like, but a place where you need to meet some criteria to enter. The anchor point at the deli counter is the area behind the counter. This is an area that is limited to people that have credentials to enter and exit. The general public cannot come and go from behind the counter freely. The space behind the counter is reserved for deli employees and other general store employees.

Identify Personas

Now that we have mapped the area and understand the two different types of places that exist in the environment, we can next identify potential personas for people that will move through the deli at any given time. Think of personas as the reason people are present. At the deli, there are three main personas, each there with a different need:

  • Customers
  • Deli Employees
  • General Store Employees

Set Expectations

At the deli counter, the three specific personas listed above each have different goals and objectives for every person-to-person interaction. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the first persona, the customer, but anyone looking to improve their abilities should repeat this process for the other two personas as well.

We can break down the ideal process from start to finish for the typical customer entering and exiting the deli area. For each step in this process we will also assign a baseline individual cluster from one of the four individual clusters of human behavior to help further set our baseline for the entire process. These baselines are based on typical observation of deli counters and based on feedback that we have received from clients and partners that help us set baselines. As you read through the process at the deli counter, consider other processes that you perform where this same deliberate practice can help level set for everyone what is normal.

  • Step 1: Person approaches the area around the deli to enter the queue
    • Baseline individual cluster: Comfort
  • Step 2: Person waits to be waited on
    • Baseline individual cluster: Low-Level Discomfort
  • Step 3: Person places order with employee
    • Baseline individual cluster: Low-Level Dominance
  • Step 4: Person receives order
    • Baseline individual cluster: Comfort
  • Step 5: Person moves away from the deli, satisfied with the level of service they received and continues shopping
    • Baseline individual cluster: Comfort
  • Step 6: Person continues to shop at that location, based in part on their satisfactory experience at the deli
    • Baseline individual cluster: Comfort

Identify Anomalies

While the above process and expectations are ideal, we know that this perfect scenario is not always what happens in this situation. Here are some possible anomalies to look out for at the deli counter that will stand out from the baseline and possibly derail the ideal deli process:

  • A person who breaks from the baseline for the originally identified persona and does not operate in the typical pattern of the customer like someone who doesn’t wait their turn and just orders randomly from the back of the pack.
  • A person whose behavior deviates from the baseline for a certain step(s) in the process. This might include someone displaying dominance while standing in line or high levels of discomfort while approaching the counter.
  • A person enters an anchor point without meeting criteria, in this case this could be someone who hops or sneaks into the deli area without a white coat.
  • A person who remains in a habitual area once their need has been fulfilled, which could be that they get their deli items and just continues to stand in the deli area in this example. 

Plan for Each Anomaly

The last step of the deliberate search is to decide what you are going to do about what you see if you see something that stands out.  In our client work, we typically help teams outline their process steps when anomalies present themselves. What might be right for you and your team may not work across the board, so it is important to get together with all stakeholders and determine the best next steps when something stands out. These are the final stages of the deliberate search in the context of the deli counter example and they show a potential anomaly and what your corresponding action might be.

Each of these responses have been crafted with the goal of reducing false positives to determine if there is an intentional reason for people to be operating outside of the baseline. By eliminating each false positive, I can hopefully eventually end in a place where there are no anomalies. When there is no one else outside of the baseline, I can feel confident moving on. For this grocery store example, I am assuming good intent and that is reasonable for a setting like this. By observing, addressing and aiding any false positives that genuinely need help I can use process of elimination to potentially find any actual threats that are purposely operating outside of the baseline because they have bad intent. You will notice, that I also include what individual cluster I will display while taking my action. There are rare instances where you will want to rely on only one cluster display regardless of your action. Typically, to get great results, you will want to also use the individual clusters to your advantage.

  • A person who breaks from the baseline for the originally identified persona and does not operate in the typical pattern of the customer, like someone who just orders randomly without waiting in line properly.
    • If I found myself in a situation where someone skipped the line egregiously, I would either let someone behind the counter know who was next in line or use the group dynamics of my fellow deli patrons to confirm my suspicions that the person ordering while displaying the comfortable cluster myself.
  • A person whose behavior deviates from the baseline for a certain step(s) in the process. This might include someone displaying dominance while standing in line or high levels of discomfort while approaching the counter.
    • If you notice a fellow patron in line who is showing high levels of discomfort while waiting to order you can help them back to baseline by initiating a conversation. They may be unsure of the ordering process, or what to order. Start by finding common ground and perhaps asking them for help. For this interaction I would display either comfort or submissiveness, depending on the person and situation.
  • A person enters an anchor point without meeting criteria, in this case hops or sneaks into the deli area without a white coat.
    • If you see someone hopping the deli counter I would tell someone that works there, by asking a deli employee if that person was supposed to be hopping the counter. I would probably ask in a flippant manner such as, “Uhh…Hey, is that guy supposed to be hopping the counter like that?” I would choose this approach to avoid mass panic in the store. If the employee tells me that the person does not have authority or permission, I would leave the area and alert more people on my way out. It is reason enough to decide not to wait for my potato salad. During this interaction I would display discomfort myself because this is not normal.
  • A person who remains in a habitual area once their need has been fulfilled, which could be that they get their deli items and just stand there or continue to move about the deli area in this example.
    • This person may be unsure what to do next or might even be lost. You can approach the person and ask them if they need help finding something, continue to observe until they get back to the baseline, or let someone know that you are concerned with their actions. If I do choose to approach this person I will typically display submissiveness, as to not approach anyone in a threatening way.

By understanding the complete customer process at the deli counter from start to finish, I have laid out the deliberate search process that everyone can use everywhere they go. As I mentioned at the onset, the deliberate search is more complicated than the hasty search. It requires time and patience to fully understand the operational process for a given area. Most of the clients that we work with at The CP Journal rely on video surveillance over extended periods of time to fully understand the ideal processes and then set their personas. Luckily, the general public has experience as their guide. By paying attention to the areas that you enter and exit in your routines, you can build some commonalities for your environments. With these commonalities you can feel more confident everywhere you go because you know what is normal, what would stand out, and decide ahead of time what you are going to do about it should the situation arise.


 

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