Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence
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Do you work for the IRS and seem to have difficulty maintaining a positive image with your clients? Are you a dentist who confronts patients who don’t like to sit in the chair? In selling used vehicles, do you have a hard time proving to customers that the car in question isn’t a lemon?
Some industries are perceived negatively by most consumers. Such is the case with the time share industry. This last month the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort opened at Walt Disney World. It’s the most recent of a string of Disney vacation club destinations that stretch from Florida to Hawaii. This location is among one of the most opulent (and thus expensive) destinations ever.
Critics were shocked when Disney went into the time share business. Most people equate the experience to being a group of hucksters holding you hostage until you buy and get stuck a piece of property that is over-priced. But Disney went into the business by taking everything that is negative about the experience and turning them into positives. Consider the following:
And the result? With a time share you have 3 days before the contract becomes binding. This results in 10 percent opting out. At Disney you are given 30 days before the ink dries on the paper. And only 1 percent opt out during that time. Where 5 percent are repeat purchasers industry-wide, 65 percent or more are repeat purchasers at Disney. Disney also gets 80 percent of their work through referrals. That compares to only 15 percent in most time shares.
Did we mention that purchasing a vacation club experience at Disney is much more than most other time share options? Yet they still get these stellar results.
It’s important to understand how customers view your business, whether positively or negatively. Then it’s important that you leverage the positive, and separate yourself from the negative by delivering unparalleled service. It’s what world-class organizations do. Take what’s negative, and stand out among the competition.
Are you heading to SHRM’s Strategic Conference? If so, you must join us for our pre-conference workshop this year.
Our Lead With Your Customer program this years takes a look on the inside of three great companies and brands. Listed as one of the 100 great places to work by Fortune Magazine, Scripps Health is an outstanding health care provider that aligns employee recognition to patient satisfaction. You’ll not only visit Scripps, but talk to senior staff about what they do to be one of the best medical centers in the country. Then it’s off to Red Door Interactive, a hot and upcoming marketing firm in an ever-changing world. Also known as one of the best places to work in San Diego, this culture guarantees its employees to be “100% Jerk Free.” And the beautiful Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, will take us behind the scenes to see what it takes to create a care-free Southern California stay for its guests. All this, plus great insights from scores of best-in-business greats and your peers will leave you with new ideas for taking your organization to the next level.
Sign up by visiting here. We definitely look forward to seeing you.
A few years ago I found myself outside the hospital walking past this presentation. Following the name of the hospital, the sign says:
“For our Non-Smoking Patients, Visitors & Staff
“If You Must Smoke Please Move Further Down The Sidewalk To The Seating Area
If you look further on you can see that there are seats and standing ash trays for those wishing to smoke.
My guess is that they wanted to create a smoke-free area for people to enjoy so they stuck a sign in the middle of the rocks to tell people where they should go to smoke.
Now look carefully at the rocks below. In memory or concern of loved ones who have been treated at the hospital, guests have started taking rocks and writing their names. Over time it’s become a sort of memorial rock garden with hundreds of named rocks.
Yet there is no acknowledgement of this spontaneous memorial. Nor has there been any embellishment of the area to more fittingly pay tribute to this gathering of stones. Indeed, if anything, the sign telling people where to smoke almost stands as a sword stuck in the middle of the pile, completely oblivious to what people see as the real purpose of this unplanned sanctuary.
If you had planned this garden out, would you have put a glaring non-smoking sign in the middle of it? The fact that they put so much attention on the sign and not on the garden sends a flag to me as to what is really the priority.
Most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule: Do unto others and you would have done unto yourself. Few of us may be familiar with the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would like to have done unto themselves.
I think there was good, caring intention with the sign. We all want clean air. But I think to overlook the rock garden was a bigger mistake. Clearly, this little pile of stones means a great deal to people. I think that’s what is really important to them. Why take away the focus or make it ugly with a sign–even if the sign’s message is important?
This happens all the time in organizations. We do things with good intent. But do we do them with the customer’s intent? Do we really think what might matter more to them? That’s the opportunity for all of us.
Consider this example: When you think of a great dining experience, do you think of a fine restaurant with serving staff in tails, towel over their arms and fine food on a tray?
Now consider the following image:
This little guy reminds me of an important concept in customer service. This server is dressed up in tails and tie. He has the towel wrapped around his right arm, and the tray holding dinner extended on the right. He parodies that which you might find if you were visiting the Ritz-Carlton or the Waldorf-Astoria. He is delivering what many think would be great service.
Only this location is neither. It’s really the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland, a rustic counter-service location tucked in the corner around the bend of the Rivers of America. He is serving the main entree on the menu–hamburgers!
No one who really works at that restaurant dresses in that fashion. Nor does their demeanor align with this concept. But that doesn’t mean they don’t provide great service in a beautiful setting in a way guests come back again and again to enjoy. To me, delivering meals in a tux may be what some consider great service, but it’s not what people go for when they visit the Hungry Bear Restaurant.
Seeing someone in a tux delivering a hamburger seems to me as off target as stabbing a makeshift rock garden memorial with a non-smoking sign. There may be great intent, but it’s still a miss. We have to think not what we think is appropriate for our customers, but what they would see as great in their eyes.
A couple of months ago I took my daughter to a hospital that out of the kindness of my heart I will not name. It is a prestigious hospital being well known nationally. Yet it was a disappointing experience. We had driven two hours to see a particular specialist, only to have that individual replaced by another colleague–supposedly in the same field. We also waited nearly two hours to see that replacement doctor, a matter I patiently tolerated only because I did not want to embarrass my daughter. Still it suggested something else:
1. They’re really disorganized–something I didn’t get because it really wasn’t all that busy.
2. The doctors could really care less about the patient waiting experience.
You might argue that perhaps they were in ER or having to handle some major issue. Maybe, but I could hear the doctors chatting away next door in their office, so I knew they weren’t out doing something else.
I should mention that this was a children’s unit in this major medical center, and as such they had decorated the walls and even the ceiling in a way that tailored specifically to a preferences of a five year old. It was an awkward setting for my 17 year old daughter, as nothing in this environment made her feel at home–and in fact, only served to make her question whether she should still be seeing this doctor at this stage in her life. Unfortunately, you can’t see this kind of specialist that tailors to 17 year olds unless you go to a children’s unit.
In total I felt the experience could best be summed up by this image found in the hallway of this hospital:
This image suggests a bigger metaphor for what is not only happening at this hospital, but many like it. You’ve put Captain Marvel at the draw bridge of a pink, princess castle. Disney Princesses and Marvel Heroes live in alternate universes. Captain America really can’t help a Disney princess because he doesn’t live in that world.
The same thing I think is true of healthcare: I think some Doctors can easily live in alternate universes from everyone else. I would title that universe as “Entitlement”.
I’ve worked with lots of medical groups trying to help them deal with the customer experience. I get the same message every time. Everyone is on board to doing what it takes to improve the customer service experience through training and development and a host of initiatives–except the doctors. The doctors are simply above it all. When I ask why, everyone always says that they work from a sort of entitlement.
They’re not alone–if it’s company they’re wanting. I hear the same message when I work with universities and professors. The same happens with government and politicians. Please know–it’s not a compliment when your organizations perceive politicians, professors and doctors as having an entitlement mentality.
But the truth is, many people outside those professions live in an entitlement zone. They may see themselves as the old-timers on the block who have “paid their dues”, and therefore, don’t have to do what everyone else has to do. Or they can be newcomers who see themselves as coming in to “save everyone” in the organization by bringing in new blood. Entitlement doesn’t require a specific title–just a lot of pride.
Nothing blocks the ability to deliver really great service than an entitlement mentality. It puts blinders on you that keep you from truly seeing how you come across. You can’t be a hero if you’re blinded to the reality around you.
Doctors are in many ways super heroes. They aren’t imaginary. They do things that truly save lives. But they can’t do it by themselves and they can’t do it if they are too above themselves to be there for their patients. For that matter, nurses are super heroes too. And so is that third shift custodian. Go beyond what’s required of you. Demonstrate concern to others around you. And you can be a super hero as well.
As for my daughter, she has moved onto another state and another set of doctors who frankly, seem more attentive to her needs. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
It seems that organizations are in the news for good and bad. From Boeing to the U.S. Post Office, there seems to always be a bad headline in the paper. Organizations spend countless millions trying to mitigate such negative press while arming PR folks to spin the bad and counter with the positive.
And yet some things gather attention with seemingly no effort at all.
A story that has had lots of favorable press is Lego. A 7-year-old from England named Luka Apps had lost one of his favorite mini figures. With his dad’s help, he wrote the company and pleaded for a new JayZX. Lego sent him a new minifigure (how much did that cost?). But what made it send out was the creative way they responded to the young man:
“Thanks for sending us an email!
“We are very sorry to hear about you losing your Jay minifugure but it sounds like your dad might have been right about leaving it at home. It sounds like you are very sad about it too.
“Normally we would ask that you pay for a new one if you lose one of your minifigures and need to have it replaced. My bosses told me I could not send you one out for free because you lost it but, I decided that I would put a call into Sensei Wu to see if he could help me.
“Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever let it happen ever again. He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!” Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.
“So, I hope you enjoy you Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!
“Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad…
LEOG Consumer Services”
That sort of attention to a little 7-year-old inevitably landed the LEGO organization from media outlets like Huffington Post, MSN, Yahoo and Forbes. You can’t pay money for that kind of good press. And it came from a sincere effort to not only provide service recovery, but to tailor that service to the boy’s circumstances.
There’s another favorite story from a zoo I’ve worked with
Rave To Woodland Park Zoo, who found our 4-year-old son’s missing stuffed gorilla, “Oooh Oooh,” amid the pile of stuffed animals inside the Zoomazium, and returned him to us along with a photo-essay of his “adventures” during his month spent at the zoo. Your creativity, compassion and kindness stunned us, and we are so thankful that our son who declared “this will never stop hurting until I am dead” has his special guy back. Thanks for setting an example for our kids of what it means to go the extra mile in caring for others.
The back story on this experience is that the gorilla had accidentally fallen behind some furnishings. When it was finally recovered, the staff called the family and left a message. A few weeks later the family, upon returning from their vacation, called the staff and told them they would be over right away. The staff, realizing that the family had not called back because of their trip, thought it would be cute to take pictures of “Oooh Oooh” on vacation at the zoo.
Of course, lost and found items are returned regularly in any organization. What made this stand out was the individualized approach the staff took. The small photo book cost practically nothing. The good will–and long term customer loyalty achieved–will last far longer.
So it is with really great customer service. Whatever the cost to select, orient, train, emphasize and reward great customer service is a small price for the returns it yields. It’s an opportunity no organization ignore.
Like the Woodland Park Zoo, and many other organizations around the world, we provide great customer service programming and consulting. We also provide the management and leadership tools to support the transformation of cultures and brands into world-class excellence. Contact us today!
Forbes Magazine has named Sammamish, Washington as the friendliest city in America. With a population of 46,700, this bedroom community to Microsoft was ranked by Nextdoor.com, a San Francisco-based social network for neighborhoods that assess small metro areas with populations between 5,500 and 150,000.
There are a number of factors that lend themselves to be chosen. Forbes reports that nearly 90% of the residents of this Seattle suburb own their own homes. Crime is low as is unemployment. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and overlooking a lake, Sammamish offers outdoor activities like skiing, water sports, hiking and biking. Community-organized events include a weekly farmer’s market, a Concerts in the Park series, Shakespeare in the Park, Sammamish Days and Nights Jazz Music, and an annual arts fair.
But what really makes a town great can’t always be measured quantitatively. Said one six-year resident Katy Chung, “I have never lived in a community that’s more welcoming…When we first moved here, neighbors came out of their homes to introduce themselves and give me delivery menus!”
I’ve worked with the City of Sammamish for many years in an effort to make its employees more customer-friendly. This is a great group of people who truly go out of their way for their residents. I remember many stories of helping people get sidewalks cleared of snow or removing limbs from a storm. One story shared was about a women who accidentally lost her keys down a curbed gutter. City employees went out, got in the sewer system and fetched the keys.
If I were to give credit to any one individual I would say it’s Ben Yazici, City manager. He was appointed back in 2001 but served with the city even prior. City councilmen have come and gone, but Ben has a persistent vision about being there for citizens and of setting the tone for the community. There is an energy and drive he brings to that is contagious. People want to make the city succeed.
Congratulations to Sammamish! You are a great example of what cities can do for their citizens!
One of Disney’s most beloved films, Beauty and the Beasts, speaks to the topic of hosting others. Indeed, its signature song, “Be Our Guest,” is not only an anthem for great guest service at Walt Disney World, it’s now become a hugely popular restaurant. Guests are making reservations months ahead for formal dinner reservations, and standing in long lines for a more kiosk-style lunch at the “Be Our Guest” restaurant. Why? Because they thing they are going to experience something different than most guests experience in standard Disney theme park restaurants–a chance to experience great guest service in an amazing fantasy setting.
But providing great service whether at a Disney theme park restaurants or in the real world takes more than a magical ballroom or a wish before an enchanted mirror.
In earlier days of coal mining, there was a concern about ventilation. Methane and carbon monoxide gases were a poison that could take the life of a miner before it was too late.
To resolve that concern, canaries were brought down in cages to accompany the workers. Carnaries were even more sensitive to those gases and would pass out long before the miners did. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary was a sign to evacuate immediately.
A very different signal comes from this ball of birch mulch.
Found in Japan, this balls unusual ornaments were hung over Sake during the fermentation period. When the birch has turned from green to brown, then you know that the sake has sufficiently fermented. Truly nature has provided her own time table.
Nature provides many signs for us. The first falling leaf, the first snow fall, the first bud in the spring. So it is with organizations. What are the signs that your organization is succeeding? What are the signs that your corporate culture is what you want it to be? What are the signs that you need to make changes before its too late?
“Service is not only a matter of being pleasant to customers—just as being a doctor is not only a matter of having a comforting bedside manner—but also of understanding the systems that make customer satisfaction possible.”
“Understanding how and why the whole system works is the fundamental expertise of service professionals.”
“Ideas at Work, “ Harvard business Review
Just recently our World Class Benchmarking program had the opportunity to provide a great pre-program benchmarking experience in Palm Springs for the SHRM Strategic Conference. One of our opportunities was to provide a benchmark of Desert Recreation. Often our program benchmarks are of renown organizations such as Wynn Hotels, Mayo Clinic and McDonald’s Hamburger University. But we have had association with this group over the years, and so we decided to try them out as a benchmark–even though no one in the group had ever heard of them.
As part of the tour we walked through one of their recreation facilities. In many ways, there’s nothing too special. The facility is several years old–it was by no means sleek and cool. But the staff was energetic, and the place was bustling with people who were enjoying the facilities. There was something in every corner of the building from basketball games to ballet demonstrations to gymnastics practices.
We sat down and heard from Kevin Kalman, who is general manager for Desert Recreation. His story isn’t too unlike so many other organizations that struggle to make do with less–especially when government funding is shortened year after year. The organization had long taken seriously the importance of great customer service. But after a number of years, the customer experience became one of excellent “crappy” service. What does that mean? It means that you can have the kindest, most considerate, most “go-out-of-your-way” staff available, but if there is no air conditioning in the gym, or the coach makes a no show, or there’s no room to sign up for the after school program, it doesn’t mean much.
Desert Recreation knows that it can’t just focus on the service delivery of their employees. They must look at the whole picture. We speak of this in our book, Lead With Your Customer. We note 6 Ps:
Promise: The brand promise you make to your customers. In this instance, it’s the promise of recreational opportunities that truly meet the needs of your constituents. For Desert Recreation, that meant pulling back and focusing only on those things they could really deliver on well, and that mattered most to constituents. Their annual soap box derby was one such example. It was a fun event, but it only delivered to a relatively few, and many of those were not even within the local community.
People: Those serving on the front line. They had this nailed. And honestly, I never saw such a small–and young–team of people anxious to do their best.
Place: The ‘onstage’ setting for your services and offerings. Too often the budget for maintenance was sacrificed for the sake of providing every possible program they could. Again, that tends to create a mediocre offering.
Process: The policies, procedures and rules that govern the delivery of your products and services. At Desert Recreation, it’s about what time you open and close; who can play basketball and when; how do I get a refund if I don’t like the program I’m in. What happens when a coach is absent? You have to create processes that are as flexible as the individual needs of your customers.
Product: The goods you offer to customers. Ballet, Zumba, weight rooms, and after-school care. Those are the products, but again, they are only as good as they people, place, and processes that support them.
Price: This is the tangible and intangible costs to the customer. How big a hassle is it to enroll? Is it worth getting going there to work out? Am I getting value for my money?
Look at your own organization. The customer experience is not just about how “friendly” your employees are–as important as that is. It’s about over delivering on your promise through your people and place and process and product. It’s about whether the people, place, process and product is worth the price. A great customer service experience is fully integrated and delivers on its promise. There’s no cute gimmick to this. You don’t need to give them a “pickle.” You don’t need to get your employees to toss a “fish.” Neither do you need to move everyone’s “cheese.” You need to deliver on your promises and make sure that what you deliver is worth the price. To do otherwise, may only provide excellent “crappy” service.
We help organizations to avoid the dilemma of excellent “crappy” service. Please contact us, and we can help your organization move forward.
We often meet with teams that say they are fairly effective at teamwork. But when we study their relationship with other departments and organizations things start to fall apart. The result is that we often find silos that create gaps in creating a solid, consistent, customer experience. In our book, Lead With Your Customer, we talk about service silos as ineffective, vertically organized, isolated areas of an organization’s operations led by influential people who are characterized by the following:
Service silos prevent an organization from creating an optimal service experience. Some have characterized the people who support these silos as cancers within an organization–caring basically only about their own well-being, to the detriment of the company. It’s critical for leaders to identify ways to break down those silos and rid the workplace of these attitudes by influencing change for the better. There are two approaches to this:
1. The Harder Way. Make sweeping changes to your organization’s structure. This will bust the silo, but it may also bust your ability to get work done in the short term by re-organizing as well as your morale over the short and long-term.
2. The Easier Way. Take time to get to know and build relationships with other parts of the organization. Learn about them by inviting them to come over to your department and share their learnings. Find formal and informal ways to socialize. Create projects where you can collaborate together in a way that makes each side feel like they are contributing meaningfully.
Unless you take a proactive role, it’s difficult to provide a customer experience that doesn’t fall down between organizational silos. Think about the things you can do to bring your organization together.