On a masterclass call (on advanced client retention) I described a customer experience gone wrong at Jones And Co. where a client’s glasses had been ordered incorrectly without transitions, then delayed, and the client justifiably went beserk in the practice. I described the process Kathryn followed for handing the situation and averting disaster. If she was flying a plane full of passengers she skillfully managed to emergency land the place without anyone losing their life. But the error that put everyone at risk was a simple, silly mistake that was 100% avoidable. Human error was the reason for the near miss.

‘Pause-Points’ is an aviation term for when a person or team must stop to run through a series of checks before proceeding. These pauses are set at vital points where if a simple error is made here it can potentially have huge repercussions. And a basic double check can vastly reduce if not eliminate human error.

For opticians one of the most critical times to have a pause-point is just before sending an order for a pair of spectacles. A mistake here can ruin everything and result in lost clients, refunds, damage to reputation, stress for team, stress for client, stress for owner. Now I get it; I realise everybody is busy. A job needs entered quickly so you can see the next client. Or it’s the end of the day and a whole bunch of orders need to be placed before you leave. It’s natural to want to try and save time but thinking you can rush and save a few seconds or minutes here is a false economy. You could place twenty orders, get nineteen correct and make an error on one ordering something incorrectly. You may have saved a few minutes by going fast. But that one mistake will cause you 10X the pain and 10X the time to fix it. I wrote about the same thing last year using the tale of the hare and the tortoise. You have to go slower here. You have to pause, and check. Lens specification, measurements, prescription etc. DOUBLE-CHECK that it is all entered correctly before proceeding.

Doing an interview for a potential new team member a few weeks ago, I tried to call a 5-minute stand-up meeting with the team afterwards to get their impression and thoughts on the interviewee while it was fresh in everyone’s minds. It was near the end of the day and there was ‘rushing’ going on. It was not an ideal time. There was a request to listen in on the team conversation while simultaneously “getting on with putting these orders on the system.” The request was denied because I know it’s impossible to concentrate on two things at once. Stop for 5 minutes, join the team discussion, and then go back to the orders and give them the 100% attention that is needed. You can’t prepare a 747 for take-off while simultaneously having a conversation about something else. People will die!

This is about understanding human nature. We’re all going to make mistakes because we are human. Pause-points is a system to help us get the results we want while avoiding simple but extremely costly errors. Work with your team to make sure they understand this and keep an eye out for potentially dangerous situations and remind them to pause.