Zen Master webinar series: Q&A with customer service expert Dennis Snow

Zen Master webinar series: Q&A with customer service expert Dennis Snow

August 7, 2012
Zen Master webinar series: Q&A with customer service expert Dennis Snow

Our next Zen Master Webinar will feature author and customer service expert Dennis Snow. A consultant with over 20 years experience working at the Walt Disney World Company, Snow has been helping companies provide excellent customer service.

His book, Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World’s Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life, is a first hand account of the day-to-day operations of Disney World. In preparation for the event, we had a quick chat about what it takes to create a great customer experience:

What’s an example of something Disney does well every day that any company can learn from?
One of the core practices is what they call a “good show, bad show walk through” that occurs every morning before the park opens. Each area of the park assigns a cast member to ensure everything in his or her location is “show ready” for the first guest who arrives. They ensure that maintenance vehicles and equipment are removed, backstage doors are closed, burned out light bulbs are replaced, queue areas are arranged, final cleaning is completed, and everything is working properly. This principle can apply to any organization, including those who don’t have a physical setting for customers. Show readiness applies to any organization that interacts with customers.

Does the entire company need to be involved in creating a positive customer service experience?
It is important for the entire organization to be focused on creating the experience, because every interaction impacts the experience. I call it the “Everything Speaks” principle. Every encounter, whether face-to-face, on the phone, email, Web site viewing, etc., either supports the organization’s brand or detracts from it. And because of this, internal functions need to be onboard also. It’s tough to deliver great service to external customers when internal service is poor. The best service organizations have built a company-wide culture of service excellence.

Can you share an experience you had while working at Disney that has helped shape your view of what customer service should be?
One occurrence immediately comes to mind. I was working in the Magic Kingdom, but having one of those days that we all sometimes have; I was hot, tired, and ready to go home. I noticed a guest sitting by herself and by the look on her face I thought something might be wrong and asked her if everything was okay. With tears in her eyes she said, “We’ve saved for years for this vacation. I think this is what heaven must be like.” It was a strong reminder for me that regardless of how my day is going, for some of our guests this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s my job to make sure it’s magical no matter what kind of day I’m having. We never know what a customer’s situation or circumstances might be, so it’s vital that we do our jobs with enthusiasm, compassion, and sincerity. That story happened in 1982, but I remember every detail.

Where does the motivation to provide great customer service have to come from?
It’s a company-wide strategy that involves everyone, but definitely must be perpetuated by senior leadership. They must ensure that the proper systems and processes are in place for hiring service-oriented employees (a key success factor), be committed to training and communicating relentlessly about what the customer experience is supposed to be, and ensure that excellent service is non-negotiable. While a service strategy can begin anywhere, senior leadership must walk the talk for it to be sustainable.

The recorded Zen Master webinar featuring Dennis Snow is available here