Looking back on your own holiday shopping is a great way to be a post-holiday mystery shopper in order to learn how you can transform your company’s customer/patient engagement, regardless if you are in healthcare, retail, service, manufacturing or a nonprofit.
Ask yourself these questions as you think about your “shop 'til you drop” experiences during the season:
- Why did that company spew out, “sorry that’s our policy” vs. “sure let me see how we can make this work for you”?
- Why did I buy $500 worth of gifts at Amazon, when I could have bought from a no-name website I haven’t heard of, but is less expensive?
- Why is it that often on a website the customer friendly or help information is omitted or hidden several layers down from the home or landing page?
- Why do I walk into some stores and feel loved and welcomed as a customer, but in others I am not even acknowledged?
- Why was the salesperson hard selling me for something I didn’t need, when all I wanted was for them to listen and help me find the perfect gift for my loved one(s)
- Why is it when I am on hold or waiting for service (or to see a doctor), they often do not say: “I’m so sorry you had to wait…”
- Why can’t nonprofits be more transparent with what they do with my donation? Where does it go? Who does it help?
Answering these questions may improve your own methods of dealing with customers in every way. And here are some thoughts about exceeding expectations—one of Disney’s pillars of customer services—that might spark some new ideas to improve customer experiences.
- At a Disney guest services training program I attended, I learned that one of the ways to exceed expectations is to provide an emotional and memorable connection. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference. For example, Disney nametags include not only the name, but also the person’s hometown city and state.
This leads to great conversation between guests and Disney representatives, creating an instant bond. And this emotional connection can lead to economic opportunity because they’ve had a great experience—and it all started with a nametag. I often ask people in my workshops, what is the small thing you can do that could engage your customers or improve your service?
- How many of us are put on hold and are forced to listen to a sales pitch or the same message loop? A few years ago, I was on hold with Southwest Airlines. Southwest took an innovative approach to a customer experience that is nothing short of frustrating: the on-hold recording included a song that acknowledged how
annoying it was to be put on hold. It was so funny that when the customer service representative answered, I asked to be put on hold again to hear the rest of the song. Why was this approach so successful? Even before I spoke to a person, Southwest, using humor, was letting me know: “we feel your pain…” And it was done in the spirit the airline is known for—creative and customer-oriented.
- Ritz Carlton employees are empowered to spend up to $2,000 per guest per day to resolve a guest challenge. When I was vice president at Liberty Science Center, we gave our employees a similar authority (not sure it was $2,000) since we knew that
solving a problem yielded more positive word-of- mouth. At the museum, our team members followed a procedure of stamping guest hands so they could go in and out of the ticketing area freely. One day, a guest became distracted and moved to the side and an employee accidentally stamped a purple mark on their Gucci handbag. Well, without having to get approvals from management, that employee went to the local upscale department store, bought a replacement bag and delivered it to the guest who was still on the exhibit floor with her family. They must have told hundreds about that experience – better have a great story vs. the alternative of “they ruined my purse.”
Stories like these are heard over and over again. What’s amazing is how many companies are still under the edict that the customer is always right. In business, we all know that this is not true. But Disney taught me that even though customers (guests) are not always right, they are our guests and companies need to take the high road and deliver value and respect regardless of the situation.
Just a few weeks ago, I was 11 minutes late to a doctor’s appointment because of construction traffic. Now, I tried to call them 15 minutes before the appointment to tell them I was going to be late, but their new phone system sends you to a call center. They put me on hold for 20 minutes. At that point, I couldn’t figure out the best way to handle my lateness. Once I arrived, the receptionist told me that they have a policy to cancel appointments (after conferring with the doctor) when a patient is 10 minutes late. Needless to say, I was very frustrated.
Ultimately, when I spoke to the practice manager the next day, we were able to work out a solution going forward. But this particular instance points out another example that could be applied to other situations: empathy and kindness can yield much better results that build reputation and patient loyalty.
A number of years ago, I was conducting a workshop for an emergency room team using the Disney Institute’s customer service protocols. Disney is known for exceeding expectation because they know how to manage expectations. For example, there are signs at Disney stating: “60 minutes wait.” In reality, the wait would be less—and Disney knew this fact. When the guest had less of an “expected” wait, it became a positive and memorable experience. Using that Disney technique, I recommended to the emergency room team one way to help in customer service was to have their doctors double their wait time to manage patient expectations. Instead of “I will be right back,” doctors should be more specific: “I will be back in a half-hour.” It became a win-
win for all.
So what can you do in your business or healthcare practice to use some of these techniques that will impress and delight those you serve. . . if you do exceed expectations, you will be part of your customers’ conversations with friends, at company meetings and – yes dare I say – in social media ratings.
Dr. Stephen Brand will be leading a workshop Customer Service: Become the Customer on January 24th. Register today to secure your spot.