Most people that go to a Disney theme park have a good, sometimes great story to tell. In reading the book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions” by Guy Kawasaki, I read a personal story in which the individual tells of a situation in which a Disney employee “enchanted him for life.” This prompted me to tell my little story from our very first trip to Disneyland. First, a little background. Our daughter had been wearing braces. The Orthodontist said she could have them off in time for the trip but had to promise to wear her retainer for two hours every day.
The big wow came about from a moment of panic. It was late in the day. As many families did, we grabbed a spot on the curb, to have a good spot for the “Main Street Electrical Parade.” We had dinner, which was probably hot dogs and drinks. Our daughter was dropping her retainer into the ice at the bottom of her mostly empty drink cup, getting it cold and putting it into her mouth. Street cleaners go up and down the street while the pre-parade show is happening. During they day they have brooms and small covered dust pans. Prior to the parade they have a garbage can on wheels. Near the beginning of the parade we gathered up all of our garbage and deposited it in one of these trash containers and off it went.
Of course you know where this is going. When we realize what has happened, the street cleaner is out of sight. My daughter and I race down the street to catch him. We meet a street cleaner but he’s not the right one. He says there is another just down the street and goes with us to catch him. Hurrah, it’s the one that took our trash.
I’m ready to start digging through the trash barrel right there on the street. The two fellows calmly say no we’ll go “back stage.” They take us into a staff only area and they go through the garbage and find the drink cup.
I have since learned that the strteet cleaners in Disney’s theme parks are asked more questions than any other cast member. For this reason they get a great deal of training on dealing with guests. One told me that he has met people from all over the world that he has helped, and he sometimes gets to visit them when he travels. Disney is a company that is a benchmark in terms of customer service. People work for Disney just to learn everything they can about how it’s done. You can of now go to the Disney Institute or just read their book “Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service.”
The Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, WA is famous for WOWing people. This is the fish market that is famous for throwing fish. It’s a little bit of theatre and a must do on most Seattle visitors’ itineraries. This is a company worth emulating and it is easy to learn from John Yokoyama’s great company. He and long time business coach Jim Bergquist have created a business training division. There is a training video and a book both called simply “Fish.” The two men also speak to businesses large and small and at industry conferences.
There are four simple lessons: 1. Play, have fun in your job, it makes a difference for you and for those around you. 2. Be There, be present, be engaged. 3. Choose Your Attitude, you choose what your mood will be, it’s no one’s responsibility but yours. 4. Make Their Day, staff at the fish market entertain and engage the customers. They take them behind the counter and have them try to catch a fish. It’s an experience, and many a visitor walks away having had a fishmonger make their day.
Google, Pike Place Fish Market images. People catching flying fish, kissing fish, and smiling. Do you have those kinds of smiles in your business? What can you do this week that will make a difference?
I will start with what I consider a missed opportunity. A young woman, let’s call her Stephanie, has drawn a name for a company gift exchange. The individual she draws if British so Stephanie decides to put together a gift basket and include some English tea. She goes to a shop for the tea, and after she gets it home she notices the best-before-date is less than a month away. She returns to the shop and all of the similar packages have the same date stamp. There is a smaller size of the same tea that has a much longer expiry. Stephanie decides to accept the smaller size in exchange even though she has paid for the larger size. The shop keeper agrees and Stephanie leaves.
When Stephanie returned for the exchange the shop keeper was busy and even though she was the only customer in the store she was left to her own devices. What the shop keeper could have done was engage Stephanie and find out what she needed the tea for. The shop keeper could have offered her two of the smaller sizes in exchange. Although this comes to a little more than Stephanie had previous paid it’s an investment in good will. The shop keeper could have suggested it was in consideration for her trouble, and perhaps she would like to try some of the tea for herself. And in learning that Stephanie was giving a gift to an English co-worker could have suggested she put in a good word on behalf of the store.
In a previous post I talked about “Moments of Truth” which is borrowed from Jan Carlzon who wrote a book by the same name. Moments of truth refers to those times when a customer comes in contact with your business. It’s their experience during the interaction that defines your business for that person. One of my mentors, Roy Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads series refers to “Personal Experience Factor.” This PEF is a key element in the success of the businesses he chooses to work with.
Consider that there are four levels for each experience. Is it a poor experience? Is it an average experience; what the customer was expecting to happened is pretty much what did happen? That’s not bad, but this becomes a baseline. When you deliver below that level customers are disappointed. Third, was it a good experience, and lastly did you WOW them.
Aiming for WOW is challenging but if you aim and miss you end up at good. If you aim for average you never WOW anyone and when you miss you disappoint. In 1994 Tom Peters released his book “The Pursuit of Wow! Every Person’s Guide to Topsy Turvy Times.” These are once again topsy turvey times, perhaps it’s a good time to study WOW.
Let’s face it, even when you aim for WOW, you end up with situations where the customer is disappointed. Interestingly, one of very best times to WOW a customer is after they’ve had a bad experience dealing with your company. How you respond to a complaint can be more important than what you did in the first place. This is especially true in today’s retail environment with all of the online opinion sites. The better sites allow the business to respond to a complaint. Most people are pretty reasonable and if they see a business has 4 or 5 good to great reviews and one bad review but the business made an effort to correct the situation they are fine and will consider the business a good choice.
Some business owners try to minimize or even dismiss a complaint. I’ve seen many many cases where the business owner is in denial. You cannot determine how trivial or important this is to the customer. Let them tell you the problem but also how they feel. Then ask them what they would like to make this right. If you are the type of person that has no time for this “feelings cr-p” find someone else in the company that is a calm, good listener. It can be a very simple gesture.
One of my top ten favorite business books is “Customers for Life” by Dallas car dealer Carl Sewell. He’s one of the business owners I respect because he understand Retail DNA. I will refer to this book from time to time to discuss lessons for all of us in retail. For today’s post I will just share two ideas from Sewell.
The first comes directly from the title of the book. The subtitle is “How to Turn That One-Time Buyer Into a Lifetime Customer.” Sewell calculates what a typical customer spends with his dealership over their lifetime. Without digging up my copy of his book, the number is approximately $330,000. The specific number is perhaps not important as the book was originally published in 1990 and the numbers are going to be different for your business. The point here is, when Sewell is dealing with a customer complaint, he judges what they are prepared to do. not by how much they just spent but how much they will spend over their entire lifetime as his customer.
The second concept is very simple but has a profound impact on what the dealership will do for a customer. Sewell says, whatever you would do for your best friend, you should do for your customer because in retail your customer is you best friend. For example, he says if your best friend would phone you in the middle of the night because they broke their key off in the door lock, then his customers can call him. Well, not him directly, his dealership has its own service truck on the road 24 hours a day.
Do you love your customers enough to go to these lengths? What one thing can you implement in the next 30 days to start turning one-time buyers into lifetime customers?
I’ve noticed that some retailers are seriously understaffed. I have gone into stores with the intention of making a purchase and left without the item(s) I needed. I was unable to find the item and was also unable to find any help on the floor. A few years ago when the economy was very strong it was hard to find staff. Today, since the economy slowed, staff are available. Why can’t I find help?
Some of my retail clients tell me they have benefited from the downturn. They are able to get and keep good staff. If a store has no staff on the floor they are cutting expenses which is false economy. Good staff on the floor help customers find the things they need. Well trained staff can also interest customers in additional purchases.
Your people are a critical component of your success in retail. They are the point of contact with your customers and therefore they are the face of your business. Jan Carlzon calls there interactions between customers and staff “Moments of Truth” which is the title of his book. Carlzon was the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). He empowered his front line staff to deal with a problem in the way that they would want the problem dealt with if they were the customer. Under his leadership the airline experienced a dramatic turnaround. When a store has no staff they sacrifice not only sales but the opportunity to make connections with customers.
The only way to get out of my community is to go north. We have a Provincial Park to the south which is a wonderful feature for residents but it cuts off access to and from the community to the south. There is a community strip mall which is located south of my home. It’s a fairly typical retail center with convenience store, liquor, dry cleaner, veterinarian & doggie daycare, dental practice, barber shop, hair salon and a neighbourhood pub. The people that run the convenience store and the dry cleaner call me by name. I don’t do a great deal of business with either retailer, but they still make the effort to remember and use my name. If I were to choose strictly on convenience I would stop at another location on my way north, but I make an effort to patronize these businesses. Dale Carnegie says “No word sounds as lovely as our own name.”
It’s a little thing that can make a big difference. I am just one customer. Imagine how much of a differnce this small gesture makes to the well being of this business. Sometimes business owners are so focused on the big issues and the small things are ignored. Take some time to look at small things that might make a big difference.
With the recent announcement that Sky Service has gone under, I am motivated to tell of our worst vacation experience. It is perhaps ironic that this nightmare involved Sky Service (the charter airline) and Conquest Vacations (the tour operator). Conquest ceased operations in April of 2009 and now Sky Service ceases operation in April 2010. In both cases they cite the economy as a major contributing factor but I hold that it was their past treatment of customers that did them in.
Here’s our story. We had booked a flight to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera region which means a flight into and out of Cancun. On the day of our return, we were informed that the Calgary flight had been cancelled and all Calgary passengers were being placed on the Vancouver flight. By combining flights we had an aircraft that was completely full. We departed from Cancun in the early evening. After many hours of flying, the cabin crew announced that we must prepare for our approach into the Vancouver airport. A few minutes passed and the steward came back over the P.A. and said that he had been informed that we were in fact preparing to land in Spokane, Washington. The plane did not have enough fuel to get us to Vancouver. We were a plane load of Canadians landing in the United States in the middle of the night. We didn’t have U.S. Customs clearance so we couldn’t leave the plane. We were parked in some dark corner of the airport while the flight crew negotiated to buy enough jet fuel to get us to Vancouver. We completely ran out of supplies, there was no coffee, no soft drinks, no water, no snacks. We finally got fuel and were able to fly to Vancouver. The Vancouver passengers de-planed, the plane was refueled and the crew was changed but the Calgary passengers were not allowed to leave the plane. When we arrived in Calgary, Canada Customers hadn’t yet opened so we had a further wait. In total, we were on the aircraft for 12 hours.
We vowed to never again do business with Sky Service or Conquest Vacations. The decision to cancel the Calgary flight was likely a move to save a few dollars. When you are in a position to make these decisions for your company, don’t just look at the money that is saved in the short term, you must also consider how it impacts the delivery of service and the experience of your customer. Calculate the lifetime value of a customer and decide if you are willing to risk that value to save in the short term.