What's the secret? Featured

11:45am EDT November 22, 2004
How can Disney get 50,000 employees to execute at such a fantastic level every day but small and mid-sized business owners can't get 15 to 100 people to deliver consistent customer service?

The simple answer is that Disney provides world-class customer service; some might say secret service. Secret service is hidden systems that enable employees to deliver unforgettable customer service.

Another example is The Ritz Carlton, which focuses on delivering on the unexpressed desires and needs of its customers. Secret service requires training employees to be sensitive to the conditions of the customer at all times and to always respond immediately and professionally.

Many managers express frustration that they never see progress in their customer service efforts or returns on customer service training. Here are six reasons you're not providing superior customer service and solutions to help alleviate your frustrations.

Personal interpretation

This is the top reason why most companies fail -- it's a leap of faith. Business leaders assume all of their employees will use their best judgment.

Many don't see a potential disaster as an opportunity to be a hero, let alone see how to exceed traditional expectations. Most employees have never received world-class customer service; therefore, they don't have a clue to how to deliver it.

The gray area needs to be removed and exact protocol created for virtually every scenario.

Perfect world circumstances

Many companies have great customer service ideas on paper, and if they were all executed, in a perfect world, they would provide a memorable experience. Unfortunately, perfect-world conditions rarely, if ever, exist. Employees run late, call in sick and fall behind.

World-class customer service systems account for real-life obstacles that often occur.

No opportunity to provide input

Many organizations have senior-level executive meetings or send this group away for training and advanced education. Then top management comes back fired up with dozens of new ideas they want to implement, only to find resistance from the ranks. Eventually, those ideas lose their steam.

Companies with superior customer service hold annual company meetings at which every member of the organization, from receptionist to shipping and receiving to janitorial personnel, all have an opportunity to share their thoughts and expertise on how they feel the company can exceed customers' expectations in their parts of the customer experience cycle.

Not only do you get incredible ideas from front-line people who are in the trenches every day, but they buy into new systems because they're proud to see their ideas succeed.

No idea implementation process

There is no shortage of great ideas. The problem is how to take a great idea and transform it into a nonnegotiable system that gets executed regularly by every employee.

A rock solid implementation process forces you to put every single idea through a drill down. No matter how simple the idea, you're forced to answer questions such as, "How cost-effective is it?" "How will we introduce it to the entire team?" and "When does it kick off?"

This can be a grueling process, but it accomplishes several things. First, it fills in the cracks that prevent most good ideas from becoming consistent. And second, it keeps you from rushing an idea into practice without thinking it all the way through.

Poor role models

As leaders, we have to stop worrying about motivating everyone else and make sure we are motivated ourselves. Too often, we point the finger at others, when we're the ones who are poor role models.

Today's business leaders and managers come to work wearing that "weight of the world on their shoulders" look. If managers just worried about motivating themselves and showing employees their passion with obvious and obnoxious enthusiasm, that would solve nearly 90 percent of employee motivation issues.

If you take it upon yourself to really look at your company's customer service process, odds are you can find a way to improve it. Who knows, maybe you, too, can build systems that provide your customers with world-class, secret service.

John Di Julius III is the author of "Secret Service: Hidden systems that deliver unforgettable customer service." He is a nationally recognized speaker and president of John Robert's Spa and Salon. Di Julius is also president of Minding Your Business, a business consulting firm that specializes in helping companies become world-class customer service organizations. Reach him at (216) 839-1430.