By Chuck Boyce
Recently, as I was dropping a package into a FedEx box I was greeted by a uniformed agent. At first I thought he must be a delivery courier that I had just caught in time as he was making his pickup of the box. After a brief moment, I realized he was there to restock the supplies housed within the box. We had a pleasant exchange; he took my package and proceeded to deposit it in the box. Before I left, I spent a moment watching him complete his duties. The last visible step in his procedure was to clean the outside of the box.
It wasn’t until I sat in my car watching him that I thought back to the numerous times I’ve dropped packages and letters into FedEx boxes around the country and realized how clean they all appeared, especially compared to a mailbox. This got me thinking about the image of my own company and what had I done lately to polish the image that my customers see.
I wanted to get an honest opinion of the clues my business was sending to its clients and prospects, so I enlisted the assistance of a trusted colleague to tour my business with fresh eyes. I was amazed at the things she noticed immediately: a scuffed wall here, a missing screw in a wall plate there, and the “office” smell. As we walked through the building, I took a couple of pages of notes regarding things that I had become immune to or chose to overlook because I mistakenly thought they were no big deal. I was wrong – they were potentially sending the wrong message to our clients and prospects.
While creating a plan to correct our visual miscues, I started to think about other companies where environment is an obvious part of the customer experience and how these companies handle this component of delivering customer excellence. The first one that came to mind is my personal favorite, Disney.
I’ve been a guest at Walt Disney World outside of Orlando, Florida, many times since first visiting the park shortly after it opened in the early 1970s. I have stayed at all levels of their hotels, from the basic accommodations of Pop Century to the higher end at the Contemporary and Concierge level at the Polynesian Resort. Each of these properties relies heavily on creating an environment that supports their customer service vision.
The book Be Our Guest by the Disney Institute dedicates the chapter “The Magic of the Setting” on how to create an excellent customer experience. The Walt Disney Companies, based on Walt Disney’s own, documented obsession, pay attention to every detail of the setting and work tirelessly to remove anything that is incongruent with the atmosphere they are trying to achieve and the story they want to tell.
Getting the environment, or setting, right is not just about the physical workspaces and locations where you meet your customer face-to-face. “Setting” extends to every way that your business touches your customers.
Think for a moment about Amazon.com. As a purely e-commerce business, their environment for interacting with their customers is the website. It is equally important for Amazon to consider the transitions between the different “stores” on their site as it is for Disney to change the pavement you walk on as you travel from Main Street to Tomorrowland. It is Amazon’s job to tell its story and create an online setting that provides a customer with the right information at the right time, in a manner that is intuitive to navigate and easy to understand.
What other elements of your business should be considered within your setting? How do your written and telephone communications support your ability to deliver customer excellence? Are your marketing and promotional materials coordinated with the environment and image you want your customers to have of your business?
As you conduct business with others, take an extra moment to consider the setting. How has this company optimized the environment to deliver on its promises?
Consider your own environment. If you have trouble seeing your environment through your customers’ eyes, bring in an outside colleague or client. Insist that they be brutally honest with you. Decide what changes you need to make, and then implement them.
Chuck is working on a new book, Caring for the Caller, due out later this year. If you would like to share your stories of caring for your callers, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[From Connection Magazine – May 2009]