Try Customer Service the Disney Way

Robert Terson

The best book I’ve ever read on customer service is If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently by Fred Lee. Lee is described thusly: “Fred Lee speaks as a keen observer of individual motivation and grouped participation in organizational goals. He established his career in hospital leadership and uses Disney as his benchmark because he has been inside the Disney culture as a cast member, consultant, and facilitator. What helps give his writing and speaking its most profound ‘simplicity on the other side of complexity’ is his extensive use of personal experiences and relevant stories to demonstrate every principle he teaches. Even though he specialized in healthcare, he has been a big hit with our university staff who have been inspired by his passion and challenged by his insights….”

One of the major premises I learned from Lee is this: the competition is not just the other people in your business; the competition is anyone your customers compare you to. Nor will they judge you by the standard you would prefer to be judged by. Patients, for example, usually do not compare their hospital and doctors to other hospitals and doctors. Lee: “They hold in their mind a mental picture of how a person should be treated, and that picture becomes the standard by which their experience is judged.” And this: “It is only natural that to a physician, administrator, or clinician, quality is primarily judged by clinical outcomes. And Rightly so. …patients judge their experience by the way they are treated as a person, not by the way they are treated for their disease.” [My emphasis.]

I believe this medical axiom is true in your business, as well.

Another important concept to keep in mind is this: the customer’s perception of what occurred is far more important than the actual outcome, and impressions are created by individuals in one-on-one interactions. If you’re concerned about improving an outcome, you focus on what people do; but when it comes to impressions, it’s what a person says or doesn’t say that matters the most. You must find a way to show the customer that you care—about his welfare, satisfaction, everything that matters to him.

For perceptions, zeroing in on a customer’s complaint isn’t necessarily going to do much re establishing loyalty. People complain about things that can be measured objectively; but overall satisfaction is perceived subjectively.

Again, customer satisfaction is about impressions, not reality; and it’s your job to create the right impression.


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