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Putting on the Mouse Ears

May 7, 2008
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Walt Disney became a 20th century icon (and a very rich man) based on his uncanny ability to envision what people desired and to do so even before they knew they wanted it. 



“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
    -Walt Disney

Walt Disney became a 20th century icon (and a very rich man) based on his uncanny ability to envision what people desired and to do so even before they knew they wanted it. His visionary films led to a record 26 Academy Awards and seven Emmy Awards. But even with such an illustrious film career, Walt Disney is most famous for the theme parks that bear his name.

What has set Disney Resorts apart over the years is their obsessive focus on managing the experience of their customers so that they leave the park happy, fulfilled and relaxed. Early on, Walt Disney saw Disneyland was “putting on a show” and insisted on theatrical terminology for park operations. Therefore, visitors are referred to as “guests” and customer contact employees as “cast members.” Areas open to the public are called “onstage” and the employee-only support areas are known as “backstage.” Disney carries this theater analogy to such a level that instead of signing credit card receipts guests are asked to “autograph” them!

So what can you learn from Disney’s putting on a show for their guests? Remember, your customers only want two things from their carpet cleaning experience: solutions and good feelings. Nothing more. The “solution” your customer wants? Obviously, clean, fresh carpets. However, given today’s equipment, chemicals and technical training almost anyone can make carpeting “look clean.”

Simply put, just getting the carpets clean will not be enough to differentiate you. If you want to set yourself apart from your competitors, just like Disney you must focus on the experience your company consistently provides the homeowner. Simply put, if on a regular basis your company can give the customer “good feelings,” he or she will use your services again. Even more importantly, if you dramatically exceed a customer’s expectations, they likely will become an enthusiastic Cheerleader, singing your praises from the rooftops!

Speaking of Cheerleaders, repeated surveys have shown that more than 80 percent of how your customer determines if you did a good job or a bad job is based on their relationship with the person doing the work. Now most successful owner-operators, including very likely you, instinctively recognize the need to build a relationship with their customers. When the show tends to fall apart is when you must depend on (usually young) cast members, your technicians, to build this all-important relationship with a wildly varying audience of customers. Here are some thoughts on how to get your technicians on board as an enthusiastic cast member.

Put on the ears. Walt Disney “put on his mouse ears” every day by looking through the eyes of his customers. At Strategies for Success we call this “Putting on the Customer’s Eyeglasses.” If you can convince your employees to look at themselves and their actions through the eyes of the homeowner, you won’t need to read the rest of this article! Remember, this trick does not focus on how to do the work. (If your people do not know how to clean carpets then you have big problems!)  Instead, your goal is to change how your technicians deliver the great work they have always done.

WIIFM? My guess is you, as an owner motivated by simple desperation, have always tried to make customers happy. (I always got myself jazzed up on business by reflecting on very own personal “FOB” acronym- Fear of Bankruptcy!) However, your pending bankruptcy will very likely not push your employees to new heights of superhuman relationship building. Instead, focus on what is in it for the employee: more money, fewer call backs, more friendships with customers, the day going by faster and keeping their job. These are all extremely motivating “hot buttons” that will focus your people on making the Cheerleader!

Teach the “why,” not just the “how.” I assume you don’t want robots working for you (even though sometimes it would be tempting!). You hired intelligent people who will work harder and smarter if you explain just why following every single word of your customer service script is so necessary.

Focus on the details. The famous painter Michelangelo is reputed to have said, “God is in the details.” And so it is with amusements parks and the cleaning experience your employees present to the homeowner. Even little nuances, such as how your employees introduce themselves or how they move the homeowner’s furniture, can make or break your Cheerleader-creating efforts. So obviously you must…

Monitor and direct your people. Walt Disney found it easy to direct, manage and control his employees. After all, they were there playing their roles right under his nose. But you face a challenge as you direct your own “stage play.” Since the work is done in the customer’s home, most of your actors (employees) are playing to an audience that you never directly see. Therefore, the need to…

Build a Cheerleader assembly line. Automobile assembly plant workers are not experts on every part of the car they are building. All they need to know is how to do their specific job and follow the same exact procedure on every product. In the same way, you must develop a Cheerleader assembly line based on giving the homeowner positive Moments of Truth through the attitude, appearance and actions of your employees as they consistently deliver the carpet cleaning performance. For this to work, your in-home technician must follow your script. You will achieve this consistency if you …

Add in accountability. All of us do better if we know we will answer for our actions. (After all, you are accountable to make payroll as well as come through for your banker, the IRS, your suppliers and, of course, your spouse!) Now the problem occurs when you hire a young man or woman and tell them, “This is your truck. I want you to act as if this job is your very own little enterprise and I will reward you accordingly.”  Now I would never suggest diminishing the entrepreneurial zeal or initiative of an employee. But as the months or years go by, your employee can easily forget who it is that is signing his or her paycheck and become a loose cannon doing whatever they want. This free-spirit employee obviously is throwing your hard-won consistency to the wind and can just as easily slide into dishonest practices.

Don’t be discouraged by the seven points I’ve mentioned here. Instead, rejoice that, as economic storm clouds loom on the horizon, you are in a recession-resistant industry and the master of your own fate. So “put on your mouse ears” by learning to look through the Customer’s Eyeglasses. Take your new understanding and build a Cheerleader assembly line. This Home Front script will consist of hundreds of carefully pre-programmed Moments of Truth. And if you motivate your employees to follow the script, you will build a beautiful business that will prosper in good times or bad.

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