Disney is beloved the world over and is recognized as a premiere family destination place. Whether you’re talking about the parks in Orlando, or California, people pay premium prices to be able to enjoy a little of the magic. But what makes Disney any different than the other amusement parks in the world? Many would say it’s Disney’s philosophy and training.
A recent article in Fast Company outlined the Seven Disney Service Guidelines:
- Make eye contact: – While a seemingly small thing, Disney is usually super busy. Being a person in this large moving body of people migrating from ride to ride can make someone feel very small and insignificant. By training employees to make eye contact with each and every guest they encounter, the employee is acknowledging their presence and personalizing their experience. It’s similar to saying, “You matter,” with a look.
- Greet and welcome every guest: – By making eye contact and then saying “Hello,” and welcoming them to the Park, people are made to feel special and important. A simple acknowledgement of their existence and singling out amidst this sea of humans is an act that people not only remember, but appreciate.
- Seek out guest contact: – Disney employees are not trained to be passive. They are taught to seek out guest contact, not to wait for a guest to initiate. They are actively in the crowd doing their job and, at the same time, looking for opportunities to interact with guests. I’m not talking about guests that “need” interaction (i.e.: Someone is having a bad experience that needs intervention). Disney employees are looking to interact with as many guests as possible. Their goal is simply to make someone’s day just a little happier.
- Provide immediate service recovery: – This is an integral part of the guidelines. The Disney parks are huge and accidents happen – whether its something as small as a child spilling their popcorn or a larger issue – so Disney has empowered its employees to use their judgment and take action immediately to fix the situation rather than force a guest to wait for a “manager” to appear.
- Always display appropriate body language: – Disney knows that body language is just as important as physical language. People naturally communicate through body language all the time. . It’s not only important to watch what they say and how they say it. An employee having a bad day (which everyone does) can easily transmit that through their body language without ever once complaining. You set the tone for the atmosphere in your business. Customers will mimic that tone even if it’s subconsciously.
- Create dreams and preserve the “magical guest experience”: – Anything within an employee’s power that can be done to enhance the guest experience is encouraged. Disney wants everyone’s trip to be memorable and magical and sometimes, it only takes a small thing to make that happen… a hug from a Princess, a “Happy Birthday” from an employee while in line, etc. Even the smallest gesture can be magnified when seen through the eyes of a child.
- Thank each and every guest: – As businesses, we certainly are appreciative of all of our customers but do they know it? This simple policy is designed to insure that every guest is acknowledged and thanked at some point in the day (if not multiple times) for choosing Disney. They don’t post people at the exits specifically to say this; they expect their employees to be doing this continuously all day long.
Disney has some great lessons and practices that can be applied to any business. They are making the adoption of these by other businesses easier through the sharing and teaching of non-Disney employees and business owners through their Disney University. Disney has such a loyal customer base because it has policies in place to make everyone feel special. They also empower their employees to take immediate action to rectify anything that could jeopardize a guest experience.
One thing I’d like to leave you with. If you ask Disney, they don’t have any “employees.” Their staff is called “Cast Members.” Why? Because they realize that the Park is their venue, the guests are their audience and they are always, always, on stage.
An acquaintance of mine shared an experience with me that got me thinking. He traveled frequently and was a member of a particular hotel chain’s loyalty program. One particular stay at one of the chain’s locations was, in his opinion, beneath the quality that he had come to expect from the chain. There were multiple issues with the room – some involving cleanliness and even security. He had just driven 10 hours that day so he kept his mouth shut, ate and went to sleep. The next morning, after checkout, he decided to tweet about this experience in an effort to vent a little. He didn’t run around the Internet leaving negative reviews, just sent a single tweet. As he continued his drive towards his next destination, about an hour after that tweet was sent, he got a phone call. When he answered the phone, he was surprised to hear that the caller was the manager of the hotel he had stayed at the night before and tweeted about. Curious, he asked how they had managed to track him down. The manager explained that the corporate office saw the tweet, identified him, contacted the hotel and spoke to the manager. She then apologized for the sub-par experience he had and explained that she had reversed all charges for the room.
A lot of pieces had to fall into place for that to happen. Someone had to have been monitoring social media channels, identify a problem, track down the customer in their database, identify the reservation and location where the problem happened, contact the hotel itself and, ultimately, contact the customer. This wouldn’t have been possible in the past. But I can tell you that this not only impressed him enough to start telling people; it created an even more loyal customer than he had been before.
Dealerships use data in many ways –including records of sales processes, service repair orders, and marketing – but not many utilize this data to enhance their customer service experience. In this article by Experian, they explain how the “key to strong customer service is intimacy.” Data alone cannot provide this intimacy. Human interaction is needed to really be able to know the customer, communicate with them and gain insights into their wants and needs. Both need to exist, however.
Joe Weinman, a columnist for Forbes, explained in an article, “An intimate relationship is the exact opposite of an anonymous transaction. Rather than a standalone profitable transaction, such a relationship is oriented towards a win-win. Customer intimacy is a competitive strategy, corporate culture and organizational design – all rolled into one – supporting multiple such relationships.”
One of the largest profit centers of any dealership is their fixed operations, but this is also the most neglected when it comes to just about everything – from tracking customer transactions with technology to marketing to them with targeted, behavior specific offers designed to convert at much higher rates. It’s also typically the last part of a dealerships operations to see the introduction of new technologies designed to enhance the customer experience and provide a more efficient process.
The fact remains that this competitive strategy of customer intimacy necessitates the introduction of technology tools in all departments of your dealership. Dealerships need to be able to identify problems and take action based on instantaneously available data. Without this component, this strategy falls apart.
The future of business success, according to the Experian article, will rely on having a system in which “companies can bolster their personal knowledge with streamlined, real-time access to more information. This will empower them to make better business decisions than ever before.”
The next time that negative tweet, Facebook comment, or review appears online be prepared to WOW the customer with technology in place that provides all the components that you’ll need to do this. By having the ability to react in real-time with comprehensive data integrated with your personal interaction with the customer, you’ll create an environment that increases profits through increased retention and the creation of brand evangelists.
What is your biggest asset? Is it your impressive floor plan, the lineup of new inventory you have on your lot or is it your employees, customers and service that matter most? In an industry where a significant amount of emphasis is still placed on units sold, I challenge you to rethink your approach to business. Customer service and brand management are your biggest assets and it is imperative that you dedicate attention there in order to be recognized as a great place to do business.
Without great customer service, whether it’s provided by your sales or service team, the receptionist or even your shuttle driver, your brand suffers. Consumers have lots of choice; and they have become extremely savvy as to who they engage in business with. So you need to provide an experience that is positively memorable and encourages them to share the experience with others, and come back for more. To quote Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, an industry leader of online shoe and clothing retail, “You need to deliver WOW through service“.
Service is the heart of any business. Getting people to make the initial purchase is one thing, sustaining the business takes work and dedication. And this work doesn’t have to be hard or tiresome. Try some simple acts of kindness, like greeting your customers at their vehicle when they roll in for service, offering a relaxed environment to stroll through your lot while shopping for their new vehicle. Or even making a point to be proactive and stay connected to your customers throughout the day via phone, text, email or personal websites, to give them a heads up on the progress of their vehicle service, can go a long way into “wowing” them.
Quality customer service should be at the forefront of your corporate values and mission statement. We can all learn a great deal from the experiences we have from businesses like Zappos. Zappos employees are encouraged to spend as much time as they need with their phones customers, make recommendations, and even direct them to a competitor’s website if they are out of inventory of the product that the customer really wants to buy. Sending a customer down the road is a very unsettling idea. However, offering to service that vehicle throughout the ownership lifecycle is a great opportunity to continue to earn the loyalty from that customer. Don’t just send them down the road empty handed. Offer them the same opportunities to participate in your loyalty programs, recognize them on their birthdays/anniversaries and continue to send your mail offers. Don’t lose the connection or the opportunity to provide great service. Transparency is a key element that can be pivotal in building your brand and customer loyalty.
To reinforce this customer first culture, regular quick-tip meetings with your entire staff is a good way to make sure everyone understands your mission and vision. Dedicating 10-to-15 minutes a day or week to go over your key customer service points is a method to ensure everyone understands the business culture and how to best service every customer or potential customer that walks through your doors. Fostering a positive environment can naturally be reflective in how your customers feel welcomed when they visit your dealership.
As a side note, if you ever come to Las Vegas (whether it’s for work or pleasure) and can pry yourself away from the intoxication of the ringing sounds from the slot machines, flashing lights and fascination of the elaborate casinos, I encourage you to drive to Henderson where Zappos is headquartered… which incidentally is just a few miles from MPi’s headquarter. Zappos offers tours to individuals and businesses to come and meet their dedicated team members, get a glimpse into their culture and offers free resources that you can take back to your office to create your own wow factor. Because MPi is so close in proximity to Zappos’s office, my staff has taken advantage of this opportunity on numerous occasions. Each time they visit, they return with great ideas about how we can foster a customer first approach to our business. And we’ve implemented them. MPi is known for the highest level of customer care in our market space as we work hard to live by our motto: “customers come first”.
Now is the time to get creative with your approach to service and put your customers first so they are customers for life.
Hotel chains across the country have long had problems with customer loyalty due to an inconsistent customer experience. In researching the problem it was found that the prime reason for the disparity in customer experience was due to the growth of each major brand. Hotel chains were acquiring new properties and, in many cases, simply slapping their corporate branding on the building to attract customers.
Despite the fact that each hotel within the chain shared the same name, the quality and amenities at each varied. Some were luxurious and offered all the amenities that a business traveler could want; and some were below the standards that their loyal customers had come to expect. In 2004, the hotel brand, Hyatt decided to tackle the problem and do something different.
Hyatt created the “Hyatt Place” addition to their brand offerings. Their strategy was to create a brand in which, no matter where it was located, a business traveler would have the exact same experience. Everything is exactly the same. The lobby has the same floor plan, the bar/eating area is in the same place, the fitness center is in the same place and offers the same equipment, and each and every room at all 160 locations is exactly the same. Business travelers fell in love almost immediately. They knew exactly what they would be getting no matter which location they stayed in. Hyatt Place has won 7 awards over the last 6 years, and recently became the highest-rated mid-priced hotel chain in the country.
Consistent customer experiences generate trust. Trust generates loyalty. Trust, however, is a fragile thing. It is hard to earn but easy to lose.
How does customer experience translate to loyalty in your dealership’s service department?
It starts with consistency. Your technicians inspect customer vehicles and recommend repairs to your advisors who advise your customers. How consistent are your recommendations? Do you know how to find out?
An exercise that I recommend to dealerships is as follows:
- Find a car that none of your service techs have ever looked at.
- Put it on a hoist and have each of your technicians independently (and by themselves) inspect the vehicle, just as they would a customer’s car, and record their observations and make their recommendations.
- After all of the techs have inspected the vehicle, compare the findings.
This is an actual example of the results of this exercise:
As you can see, the results are all over the place. Imagine if a customer visited the dealership and the advisor told them they needed service on both the left and right front brake linings. The customer declines on this occasion. On their next visit maybe they ask the service advisor about those brake linings. Based on the inspection from that visit, where a different tech does the inspection, the customer is told that the tech marked them as fine. This would certainly raise red flags to the customer. It could also destroy the trust that’s been built with them.
I challenge you to perform this exercise on a regular basis. It will help create a more consistent customer experience with each visit reinforcing the declined recommendations given previously. And it will also help point out errors to any techs that need additional training due to recommending unnecessary repairs and/or failing to see needed repairs. Set a consistency goal in relation to this exercise and, when it’s achieved, have a pizza party to reward your techs.
Customer experiences are of course important in all areas of your dealership. The service drive accounts for almost half your dealership’s revenue and sees more traffic in a day than your showroom may see in a week. Make your service experience one that builds trust in your customer and loyalty will follow.
In today’s world, there are many standout companies when it comes to customer service; Zappos and Nordstrom being a couple of examples. These companies focus on providing their customers with world-class service and, because of that, people are willing to pay more while maintaining fierce loyalty. Not only do these companies earn the loyalty of their customers through the service experience, they transform many of them into brand advocates. The reason their customers patronize them and recognize this level of customer service is that it is, unfortunately, not the norm in today’s world.
Zappos and Nordstrom are not in business to lose money. In fact, both companies profit through their reputations of providing great customer service that, in turn, increase their customer base by attracting new customers eager to share in the experience.
The Olive Garden restaurant recently sympathized with a patron whose parent’s house had just burned down and decided to comp the party’s entire meal. The patron posted a photo of the comp’d receipt to the Internet in an effort to thank and show appreciation for the Olive Garden’s good deed. Because people aren’t used to acts of kindness and service from companies, many were skeptical and questioned the receipt as a PR stunt even after the patron posted links to news articles reporting the house fire and the Olive Garden’s PR agency denying their involvement. The photo quickly went viral and has not only spread through social media but has also been picked up by prominent news agencies like Yahoo!, The Huffington Post and the Consumerist.
By providing an exceptional customer service experience; your customers will become loyal and share their experiences with others. Even though people may begin with skepticism, by providing a consistent experience of excellent service, word will spread and customers will not only go out of their way to patronize your dealership but also to encourage others to do so.
Through technology, we’re more capable than ever to provide this experience to our customers in an easier, more efficient manner that will lead to increased revenue, loyalty, customer retention and consistently excellent CSI scores while allowing you to maintain an acceptable profit on your services.