Do you ever just block out all the directions or signs you see every day? Not the important ones, like Stop Signs or Do Not Enter signs. I mean the ones that are important, just not quite as urgent.

For instance, do you read every word in the “terms of service” before you click the I ACCEPT button? Does anyone really know what’s in the terms of service? Is there anyone out there that takes the time to read every line in those multi-paragraph terms? I’m guessing no. But you can’t pass go until you click the box, right? So most of us just skim the content and click the box so we can get on with our business.

I fear most of us are like this. With so many signs and messages competing for our attention, it’s hard to know where to focus. Especially in a world of Snapchat, Instagram and 10-second attention spans.

Enter: the Art of Positive Distraction.

The Art of Positive Distraction: Made To Order…Worth the Wait

I love the drive-thru. But I’m not a fan of waiting. Especially when my family’s in the car and we’re all eager to get where we’re going. And yet that’s just what happened to us at a Chick-Fil-A in North Carolina recently.

I placed our order, paid, and then the hostess apologized and said there would be a slight delay and could we please pull over to the spaces to the right to wait.

As I pulled in to the spot, I noticed this sign. Right off the bat, I discovered that I wasn’t just another customer waiting for my food – I was a VIP! (Silly, right? But it made me smile.)

And then I noticed the words at the bottom, which read, “Made to order – worth the wait.” Wow. Now I’m really looking forward to getting my food.

This simple and effective sign is a great example of what I mean by the art of positive distraction. With just a few cleverly-written words, the sign positively distracted my family and I from the wait time by doing two things. First, it made us special by calling us VIPs, and second, it helped build anticipation while subtly telling us how good their food is.

I’m happy to report that, indeed, the food was worth the wait.

Nice Boots

Traveling has become a bit cumbersome lately. There are lots of restrictions on what’s permitted on board. And before you even get to the gate you have to practically disrobe at the TSA screening area. It can be a pretty unpleasant experience. But at one airport I traveled through recently, I spotted this sign.

The Art of Positive Distraction strikes again.

There are lots of things that make this sign effective. First, it’s colorful! Instead of the typical white poster board with black print, it’s red with white and black print. It’s easy to read and it stands out from other signs. In other words, it’s meant to positively distract you toward the message they’re trying to get across.

Second, instead of giving an order (take your shoes off) the sign has a message that probably appeals to many travelers. (note: this was at an airport in the south so the likelihood of boot-wearing travelers was pretty high).

And third, the purpose of the sign is a little hidden. It’s in smaller type toward the bottom. The point of the sign, of course, is to prepare travelers to remove their shoes so the line can move quicke.

This sign entices the traveler to read it as they’re waiting in line. The subtle humor might even make them smile…and once they’re smiling, they’re drawn in to read more. And pretty soon they’ve read the whole thing and they’re busy taking off their shoes (or cowboy boots) and their jacket and belt because they know it will make the line move faster.

Isn’t that better than a boring sign, that simply says, “Remove shoes, belts, and jackets before entering TSA screening area.”?

You bet it is.

That’s what the art of positive distraction is all about. It’s communicating with your customers or patients in a way that positively distracts them from what they might think is a boring or laborious task and makes it better. Enjoyable, even. And that is one powerful way to improve the customer or patient experience.