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Figure Out What Ticks Off Your Customers – and Do Something About it

This is the ninth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse – A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page.

Lesson #9: Figure Out What Ticks Off Your Customers – and Do Something About it.

While Disney World’s mission is to create magic for guests, sometimes less-than-magical events occur. Rain, closed attractions, and long wait-times are just a few examples of circumstances that can result in guests being ticked off. Guests often save for years to visit Disney World, and their expectations are understandably high. Any glitch in the experience can easily cause frustration that is out of proportion to the actual problem – but the guest’s perception of the problem is the only perception that counts.

Rather than ignore those problems, however, Disney faces them head on. Over the years, for example, Disney “Imagineers” have addressed the wait-time issue in a number of ways, such as posting wait-time signs, providing entertainment while guests stand in line, and designing the queue into the story of the attraction. Most recently Disney World created FastpassTM – a process where guests can make reservations to go on major attractions, reducing wait times dramatically. These are all examples of finding out what ticks off customers and doing something about it.

Most customers have experienced company processes that just don’t make sense and that cause them intense frustration. Sometimes a particular process has been in place so long that the organization simply forgets how irritating it can be to customers. Other times the organization decides that their convenience is more important than the customer’s convenience, such as the appliance repair company that says they’ll be at your house sometime between 1pm and 5pm. Clearly, their convenience trumps the customer’s.

All it takes to successfully apply Lesson 9 is an understanding of how customers interact with your organization and to identify any “points of pain.” When asked, most customers are quick to share what frustrates them. Frontline employees are another source of information regarding customer frustrations. After all, those employees are usually the ones who bear the brunt of the customer’s irritation.

When a company identifies customer frustrations and takes steps to alleviate the problems, they set themselves apart from the competition. Customers think, “Why can’t other companies do it like they do?”

Questions to consider about Lesson #9:

  1. What are some frustrating processes you’ve endured as a customer?
  2. What do customers find frustrating about doing business with your organization?
  3. What can your organization do to encourage greater sharing of ideas for improving the customer experience?

 Lessons From the Mouse

To be released this summer

 

Everyone Has a Customer

 This is the eighth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse – A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page.

Lesson #8: Everyone Has a Customer

When it comes to internal customer service, Disney World’s philosophy is, “Cast members are treated the way they are expected to treat the guests.” This philosophy is not just directed at those in Disney leadership positions. The statement can be slightly changed to read, “Cast members treat each other the way they are expected to treat the guests.”

Only about half of Disney World’s cast members work onstage with direct contact with paying guests. The rest work in backstage roles such as Costuming, Maintenance, Finance, Marketing, Training, and countless other departments where they interact primarily with other cast members. But the attitude of these backstage employees who serve the employees who serve the guests is the beginning of the chain of magical moments. And if the chain breaks down anywhere along the way, the guest experience is likely to suffer.

To be successful in the long run, it’s important for all employees in a company to treat each other the way they’re expected to treat customers. And to be the best in the business, it must be a company-wide practice. Every organization depends on internal coordination and cooperation to succeed. With every internal interaction, imagine if employees did what they said they would do (and did it well), were responsive to the needs of other employees, and demonstrated genuine care.

World-class organizations become world-class by not only creating great experiences for customers, but by also making the organization a great place to work. Turf wars, backstabbing and finger pointing aren’t tolerated. Everyone sees themselves as contributing to the larger mission of the organization and they work together to achieve that mission.

Questions to consider about Lesson #8:

  1. How effective are your organization’s employees at treating each other as customers?
  2. Who are your internal customers?
  3. What would excellent internal service look like in your role, department, or organization?

 Lessons From the Mouse

To be released this summer

Never, Ever Say, “That’s Not My Job” – Don’t Even Think It

This is the seventh in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse – A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page.

Lesson #7: Never Ever Say “That’s Not My Job” – Don’t Even Think It

From the day a Disney cast member joins the organization, it’s clear that saying anything remotely close to, “That’s not my job,” is about the worst thing he or she can do. Cast members are expected to pick up that stray cup on the ground, find the answer to a guest’s question if they don’t happen to know, pitch in to get the job done – no matter one’s job description. In other words, cast members are expected to take ownership for creating Disney magic. And yes, they accomplish this even though Disney World is a union environment.

Imagine how you feel when you ask a server in a restaurant for water and hear, “This isn’t my table,” or when told by a nurse in a hospital, “I don’t work this floor,” or when a post office employee, after you’ve been waiting in line for an hour, tells you, “I need to close this window because it’s time for my break.”

On the other hand, there is a special energy in a company where employees feel a sense of ownership. You can see the pride in their faces, and you can feel the care in their actions. Customers reward that attitude with loyalty.

This principle doesn’t mean that everyone has to know how to do everyone’s job. Expecting a hospital housekeeper to adjust a patient’s IV tube, for example, is impractical and unsafe. A housekeeper who takes ownership of the patient experience, however, will tell a nurse that a patient is complaining about the discomfort of the IV. It isn’t always about doing the job; it’s about taking ownership to make sure the job gets done.

Questions to consider about Lesson #7:

  1. What are some examples of the “it’s not my job syndrome” you’ve experienced in your organization?
  2. What causes that attitude?
  3. What are some examples of behaviors that would communicate a sense of ownership to your customers?

 Lessons From the Mouse

To be released this summer

Pay Attention to the Details – Everything Speaks

This is the sixth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse – A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page.

Lesson #6: Pay Attention to the Details – Everything Speaks

Disney “Imagineers” go to great effort to design the details that make the Vacation Kingdom a truly magical environment. The goal is to transport guests from the real world to a magical place. The details don’t stop with the design. Cast members understand that they are a key part of the story the environment is designed to tell. They maintain the integrity of the story by paying attention to the details. They wear appropriate costumes and play their roles with enthusiasm. Cast members pick up that stray piece of trash or report that peeling paint on the fence. They know that when it comes to the details, “everything speaks.”

Regardless of the business or industry, the details communicate messages to customers. Sometimes these messages seem trivial such as a napkin stain or withering flowers in a flower bed. But sometimes they can be significant like an unattended help desk or dangerous potholes in the parking lot. Trivial or significant, every detail says something about the organization’s commitment to the customer experience.

Everything the customer sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches impacts their experience. Anything that is out of alignment causes a disconnect in the mind of the customer. Everything speaks! Customers may not consciously notice every detail, but subconsciously clues to your culture are being communicated. What is your service environment saying?

Question for Applying Lesson #6:

  1. How does the Everything Speaks philosophy apply to your job or organization?
  2. Take a walk through the physical environment of your organization (preferably with a team). What messages are being “spoken” in your work setting?
  3. What needs to happen in order to ensure the details support your organization’s brand?

 Lessons From the Mouse

To be released this summer

Don’t Be a Customer Service Robot

This is the fifth in a series of ten blog posts that provide a brief synopsis of the chapters in my upcoming book, Lessons From the Mouse – A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life. You can view previous posts from the book by clicking on the Lessons From the Mouse category on the left column of this page.

 Lesson #5: Don’t Be a Customer Service Robot

 Most of the jobs at Disney World have certain repetitive tasks, such as telling guests to “watch your head and step” as they board an attraction; emptying endless trashcans throughout the day; or reciting the same spiel (such as on the Jungle Cruise attraction) twenty-times a day, five-days a week. It would be easy for those jobs to eventually become so routine that they become robotic. And worse, for them to appear robotic to guests.

The Disney rule is to treat each guest as a VIP – a Very Individual Person. And you certainly can’t do that if your actions have become robotic. Disney cast members are expected to be animated, not automated. They are expected to make a real connection with each guest, even if it’s only for a few seconds. Sometimes it just takes a sincere smile, or secretly observing a child’s name stitched on his Mickey Mouse ears and welcoming him or her by name. The result is that guests feel Disney cast members care about them as individuals.

Robotic behavior doesn’t usually occur on purpose; it’s just that some tasks become so routine we do them without thinking. The bank loan officer who instructs her customer to sign here, here, and here, without acknowledging that the customer is using the money to send her only child to college – has fallen into the trap of automated behavior. Or the hospital receptionist who, without looking up, hands a patient a clipboard full of forms to fill out – has forgotten how nervous the patient may be. In both of these scenarios it is likely that the employee has performed these tasks so many times they can do them without thinking.

The problem is that when customers experience robotic behavior from employees they feel processed rather than valued. And it’s hard to generate loyalty when customers feel processed. The secret is to identify those routine tasks that involve customer interaction and commit to staying mentally present and to be fully conscious of how you come across while performing these tasks. It’s about maintaining an experience mentality versus a task mentality.

 Questions for Applying Lesson #5:

  1. In your organization, what routine tasks could potentially appear robotic to customers – with the result that they feel they’ve been processed?
  2. What can be done to personalize the tasks listed in question #1?
  3. How can you make what is automated in your organization (such as voicemail, phone trees, or Website) more “animated?”