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Creating Wow

I love beauty shows – there is always something exciting to see, in particular at hair shows such as Professional Beauty Association, which is in Vegas right now. Sunday night, for example, I got to see some fabulous hair, at NAHA (North American Hairstyling Awards), MCd by the gorgeous Guiliana Rancic. In addition to the visual stimulation and the constant pull to color my hair, there are amazing speakers that come to inspire and teach us – sometimes from outside of our own industry. Yesterday morning, the keynote speaker at PBA was Dennis Snow, formerly of Disney. He was amazing. He spoke about customer service, and customer experiences, in a way that was so useful I think anyone in business can apply the lessons he conveyed.

He began by asking the audience if they have ever been to Disneyworld or Disneyland. Not surprisingly, most people had. He then asked the audience to shout out words that reminded them of their Disney experiences. People shouted “cleanliness,” “happiest place on earth,” “friendly employees,” “magic.” No one shouted “rides.” Indeed, he brought home the point that Disney does not sell ride tickets, but rather sells an experience. Rides are a commodity, experiences are not.

Lesson: Do everything with an experience mentality instead of a task mentality. When we do what we do as a task, our clients feel processed. When we do what we do with the goal of creating a positive experience, our clients feel valued. (And of course the task still gets done).

The core of his presentation focused on what he called the “loyalty gap,” and how everything about customer service is meant to create intense customer loyalty. Indeed, he asks, “What does Disney want you to think about when you leave?” “When are we going to come back?!”.

To bridge the loyalty gap, he suggested that businesses implement the following three strategies:

1. Look at everything through the lens of the customer.

For example, whose convenience are the furniture companies thinking about when they tell their customers they will be delivering furniture between 12 and 5? Their own! He contrasted this to Southwest Airlines, which has posted 39 years of consecutive profitability. Southwest looks at things through their customers' lens: it doesn't cost Southwest anything to have funny flight attendants, but it makes their flyers’ experiences so much more pleasant.

Per Snow, they key when looking at things through the lens of the customer is to not assume that people know that we know. People more often than not are out of their comfort zone, and we should treat them as such. A particularly funny illustration of this was a story he told about being on a flight with his wife and 3-year old child. Of course, at landing, the 3-year old was crying, being fussy, due to ear aches and pressure, and the inability to understand what was happening. His wife looked for gum, not finding any handed the child an M&M. “Here you go honey, this will help.” The child looked at the M&M, and promptly stuck it in his ear. Ear ache, M&M will help, stick M&M in ear. How often do we assume that our customers know what we know? Too often …

In order to implement this in our various businesses, he recommended that we do the following exercise with our teams: What does mediocre (note mediocre, not terrible) service look like? What does amazing service look like? In describing the various steps a customer goes through in your business, you will most likely identify a number of “mediocre” experiences that might be fixed without the spending of any additional dollars.

2. Pay attention to the details because “everything speaks”. (Even if we don’t want it to)

This really resonated with me, as I was always told to “pay attention to everything.” Indeed, everything speaks, from the condition of one’s work station to how we answer the phone. We all have a “backstage” in our operations (in my case it would be the back area / kitchen area of my showroom). Thus, we all need to be careful when backstage comes onstage. What does that mean? He illustrated this point with a telling Disney example. Imagine taking your children to Disneyworld, introducing them to Cinderella, and she is smoking (!!!). She is on break, smoking, and texting at the same time. If that were to happen, it then wouldn’t matter the millions that Disney might spend on rides. The dream would forever be ruined for that child. Snow asked us to ponder: “What are the ‘Cinderella-smoking’ behaviors in your organization?”

In order to implement this in our various businesses, he recommended that we pull together the following chart: a list of “everything speaks distracters” versus “everything speaks commitments.” Another example from Disney: an “everything speaks distracter” is trash on the ground at the parks. Having identified that, Disney implemented an “everything speaks commitment”: if any Disney cast member sees a piece of trash on the ground, they are expected to pick it up and throw it away. No matter your title or position. (This apparently works, you might remember the audience identifying “cleanliness” as one of the clearest memories about their last Disney trip).

3. Create moments of wow

As Snow explained, moments of wow add up, and many little wows make a big wow. For example when you remember something about someone personally, a birthday or a family member, you create a moment of wow. At Disney, he described a moment of wow as when any cast member walks by someone about to take a photo of their family, the automatic response is to offer to take the picture for them so that all can actually be in the photo (how many family photos do you have that do not include one family member? Usually it’s always the same photo-taker family member …). Once again, this type of behavior does not cost anything, but it creates incredible customer loyalty.

In order to implement this, he described the hierarchy of customer expectations in service:

Lowest: Accuracy - you know your product and can answer questions about it

Second lowest: Availability - your attention focused on the client

Almost highest: Partnership - I feel that you truly care about my experience

Highest: Advice – the highest level of service one can provide is to you teach your client something they did not know (in my case, something they might not have known about their skin)

Unfortunately, accuracy and availability are “dissatisfiers,” – if not met, your customers will hold that against you, but you don’t get any brownie points for doing well in those categories. On the other hand, partnership and advice are the categories where you can buil intense customer loyalty.

Overall, Snow’s presentation brought home the fact that the end goal is customer loyalty. As a goal to aspire to, he talked not about Disney, but about Harley Davidson – what other company generates such intense loyalty from its customers that they tattoo the logos and names of the business on their own bodies? While I may not get to having customers tattoo our Alchimie Forever logos on their shoulders, it is certainly something to aspire to!