The Magic of Transference

Transference is the magician’s tactic called misdirection.  It involves establishing a frame of reference or stating a premise that occupies the customer’s attention while something completely different is happening. The magician who gestures and looks off to the left or right of the audience is almost always moving the audience’s attention to where the trick is not happening––or to be precise, away from where the effect is subtly being set up or staged.

Transference in everyday life is a frequent phenomenon, although––of course––we usually don’t notice it. The nurse asks about the patient’s weekend while giving a flu shot; the bellman calls the guest’s attention to a beautiful plant or painting opposite the site of new construction; the dentist chitchats about his latest ski trip or the weather while the patient has a mouth full of stainless steel and goo . . . all are instances of transference.

Examine the negatives in the customer’s experience that you might be able to remove from their consciousness by channeling the customer’s attention elsewhere.  What are ways to substitute a small gesture, token, or action that can replace the customer’s adverse emotion with a positive one?  Parents distract the children’s focus on inappropriate or dangerous activities by providing a replacement.  What would be the customer version of this approach?



About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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