The former EVP of Walt Disney World shares indispensible rules for serving customers with consistency, efficiency, creativity, sincerity, and excellence.
Lee Cockerell knows that success in business - any business - depends upon winning and keeping customers. In 39 digestible, bite-sized chapters, Lee shares everything he has learned in his 40-plus-year career in the hospitality industry about creating an environment that keeps customers coming back for more. Here, Lee not only shows why the customer always rules, but also the rules for serving customers so well they'll never want to do business with anyone but you. For example:
Rule #1: Customer Service Is Not a DepartmentRule #3: Great Service Follows the Laws of GravityRule #5: Ask Yourself "What Would Mom Do?"Rule #19: Be a CopycatRule #25. Treat Every Customer Like a RegularRule #39: Don¿t Try Too Hard
As simple as they are profound, these principles have been shown to work in companies as large as Disney and as small as a local coffee shop; from businesses selling cutting-edge technologies like computer tablets to those selling products as timeless as shoes and handbags; at corporations as long-standing as Ford Motors and those as nascent as a brand-new start-up. And they have been proven indispensible at all levels of a company, from managers responsible for hiring and training employees, setting policies and procedures, and shaping the company culture to frontline staff who deal directly with clients and customers.
Chock-full of universal advice, applicable online and off, The Customer Rules is the essential handbook for service excellence everywhere.
Customer Service Is Not a Department
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my forty-plus years in
the business world, it’s that customer service is far more than a
department name or a desk that shoppers or clients go to with problems
and complaints. It’s not a website, or a phone number, or an
option on a pre-recorded phone menu. Nor is it a task or a chore.
It’s a personal responsibility. And it’s not the
responsibility only of people called customer service reps. It’s
the responsibility of everyone in the organization, from the CEO to the
newest and lowest-ranking frontline employee. In fact, everyone in the
company should be thought of as a customer service rep, because in one
way or another each of them has some impact on, and bears some
responsibility for, the quality of the customer experience. Even if you
never see or speak to a customer (or potential customer), you need to
treat everyone with whom you interact--your vendors, your creditors,
your suppliers, and so on--with sincerity and respect. Trust me, the
great service you give them will ultimately trickle down to your
Great service serves bottom-line business objectives. Sounds simple, but
I constantly meet executives who don’t understand that. They say
things like “I’m in the commodity business, and it’s
all about the product.” I tell them that they’d better have
a great product, because the most extraordinary customer service in the
world won’t compensate for a bad one. But then I tell them that
unless their product is the only one of its kind on the planet (and will
always be the only one), good quality alone won’t guarantee
long-term profits. Time and again, customer service has been shown to be
the best way to distinguish an outstanding company or organization from
its competitors. Let’s face it, no matter what business or
industry you’re in, there’s probably someone--or many
someones--who offers more or less the same product or service you do.
But if you provide the same product plus personal service that feels
authentic, you will have a leg up. No matter what business you’re
in, great service is a competitive advantage that costs you little or
nothing but adds huge value for your customer. And it’s one
advantage you can’t afford to pass up, because in today’s
highly competitive marketplace your customers will leave you in a
heartbeat if your service doesn’t measure up. Don’t take my
word for it; look at the research. In one study, customers were asked
why they stopped doing business with a company. Forty-three percent
named “negative experience with a staff person” as the main
reason for taking their business elsewhere, and 30 percent said they
moved on because they were made to feel they were not a valued customer.
My point is that most people expect quality products and services.
It’s the lowest common denominator. But if your company gives
people the products or services they want and customer service that
exceeds their expectations, you have an unbeatable combination, and one
your competition can’t easily imitate. Don’t get confused
about the difference between the services you sell and customer service.
Services are what consumers come to you for and pay for. Customer
service encompasses the entire experience, from the moment a person logs
on to your website or walks through your front door until the moment
they log off or walk out. It’s what brings the human factor into a
transaction. Some hardened number types scoff at the notion of the human
factor. But as I’ve learned over the course of decades working at
some of the most profitable companies in the world, the emotional
element is as important as--even more important than--the money that
changes hands. That is why it should be delivered not just competently,
but with ultimate respect, sincerity, and care.
Some managers and executives turn up their noses at the whole idea of
service. They believe it’s too “soft” for someone in
their position of importance to think about, what with all the decisions
they have to make and bottom lines they have to meet and the competitors
breathing down their necks. Creating better products, building fresh ad
campaigns, pioneering new technologies or markets--those tasks feel sexy
to them. They get their juices flowing. To them, customer service is a
department. It’s something they can delegate to nice people who
get along well with others. They couldn’t be more misguided.
That is why everyone in a company should be considered part of the
customer service department. Several years ago, when I was in charge of
operations at Disney World, we changed the title of our frontline
managers to “guest service manager” and required them to get
out of the office and spend 80 percent of their shift in the operations,
providing service support to their direct reports. Overnight, our guest
satisfaction scores rose sharply. So whether you’re the CEO, a
midlevel manager, or the head of a small department, give your team
members--and yourself!--responsibilities and titles that reflect their
role in pleasing the customer.
Great service does not cost any more money than average or poor service.
Yet the returns it delivers are spectacular. So invest in your
company’s commitment to service by making it part of every
employee’s job description and the guiding light of your entire
You Win Customers One at a Time and Lose Them a Thousand at a Time
T here’s an old saying in business: “You win customers
one at a time, and you lose them one at a time.” It’s
outdated. In the age of social media, you can easily lose customers a
thousand--even a -million--at a time. With a few keystrokes, one
unhappy, frustrated, ticked-off customer can now tell her whole
e‑mail list, all her Facebook friends, and everyone who reads her
blog or follows her on Twitter why they should not do business with you.
She can voice her outrage into a smartphone and put it up on YouTube
with clever graphics. With a little creativity, she can even go Michael
Moore on you and shoot a mini-documentary, complete with music and
special effects, and generate enough viral buzz to do serious damage to
your business. One major airline found this out the hard way when they
made soldiers returning from Afghanistan pay baggage fees for their
fourth bag. The soldiers made a video of the incident and put it up on
YouTube. Within a day, the airline received thousands of complaints and
was forced to back down.
True, satisfied customers can also spread the word about what they like
about a company. But will they? Maybe, if they’re truly blown away
by how great you are. But angry people are far more motivated to shout
about their feelings, and furious exposés get a lot more
attention than glowing testimonials. Humans are wired to pay more
attention to the negative than the positive--it’s an evolutionary
mechanism designed to keep us safe from danger. It’s why drivers
slow down to look at car wrecks, not at Good Samaritans helping someone
fix a flat tire. It’s why we remember warnings a lot better than
we do recommendations. It’s built into our DNA.
I know about that dynamic from my own experience. I see good service all
the time, but I don’t always go out of my way to write about it.
However, when that same major airline once greeted a reasonable request
of mine with a shocking and immediate “No,” I quickly posted
a detailed description of my experience on my website blog.
Here’s what happened. I had decided to combine some speaking
engagements with a vacation for my wife and me, plus (Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service" by Lee Cockerell. Copyright © 2013 by Lee Cockerell. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.