shoes-3397628_1920Last week police in the Japanese city of Himeji were called to the house of an elderly woman. Her son, over for a visit was cooking dinner and heard strange noises coming from the second floor. When he went to investigate, he found a 20 year old man asleep in a vacant room. The owner of the home had no idea who this man was, and he was arrested for trespassing.

What makes this story so interesting is that the young man had been quietly living in the house for over five months. Despite his presence under the same roof since early December, he and the owner had never crossed paths. He entered and exited regularly, leaving his shoes by the front door, and managed to go unnoticed for almost half a year.

As incredible as it sounds, this same scenario plays out every day – right under our noses. Oh, we may know every aspect of what happens inside of our personal homes, but our business is a totally different story. Thousands of customers live under our roof, coming and going on a regular basis, without us ever knowing who they are.

The good news is, our customers don’t have to be strangers to us. There are some very easy steps we can take to avoid being surprised when we bump into an invisible houseguest.

  • Look around once in a while. The homeowner in last week’s news story admitted that she never really went upstairs. She lived comfortably on the first floor and really didn’t see the need to expend the effort.

    Aren’t we just as comfortable? The customers that come in on a regular basis are familiar and provide us with an acceptable volume of work. Who needs the effort required to investigate other accounts that may be on the books. Maybe “out of sight” really is “out of mind.”

  • Pay attention to clues. You’d think that a pair of unfamiliar shoes by the front door would be a dead give-away, but not for this resident. She walked past them day after day (and likely a number of other hints) without raising an eyebrow.

    Aren’t we just as myopic? We get so focused on what’s right in front of us that we too miss obvious clues that should draw our attention. Who needs the effort required to look any further than the task at hand? Maybe we really can’t see “the forest for the trees.”

  • Listen for clues. Strange noises coming from the second floor didn’t faze this lady. She might have though she was hearing things, or maybe the footsteps from above had just become part of the home’s familiar background noise.

    Aren’t we just as tuned out? Don’t we listen with the intent to respond rather than understand? Who needs the effort required to create relationships when there are items on the to-do list that must be checked off? Maybe “in one ear” really is “out the other.”

Police are still trying to ascertain what the young squatter’s intentions were. So far though, he’s not talking. I guess he figures “Why bother? No one’s really paying attention anyway.”