Deliver World-Class Service: Lessons from the Mouse [Q&A with Dennis Snow]

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For the most part, organizations are selling commodities, posits Dennis Snow, president of Snow & Associates, Inc. It sounds like a broad, sweeping assertion, but people take notice when it comes from a former member of the leadership team at Walt Disney World Co.

If it’s true that there is little left to distinguish one product or service from another, it could make it very difficult for an organization to compete. That’s why Snow suggests companies should focus on improving customer experiences—something that Disney excels at.

Snow will be delivering the opening keynote at the CRM Evolution, Customer Service Experience, and SpeechTEK conferences on May 23, 2016, in Washington D.C. There, he plans to talk about how organizations can improve customer journeys by focusing on delivering exceptional customer experiences. In preparation for this event, Snow spoke with CRM, SmartCustomerService.com, and Speech Technology Editorial Director David Myron about the biggest problems facing customer service departments today. Some of these challenges, according to Snow, include focusing on the customer experience through the customer’s lens, the need for speed, and keeping employees motivated and engaged. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Myron: Can you tell us a little about your background at Walt Disney World?

Snow: I started out working on the rides. I was a teenager when I started working there. Then I managed operating areas around the parks for a few years. And then I managed the Disney University, which is where they did the training for the cast members and the leadership there. Then we spun off a division called the Disney Institute, where companies would come down to benchmark best practices with us. So my last several years at Disney I ran a division of the Disney Institute.

Myron: How long were you there?

Snow: Twenty years. I was there from 1979 to 1999. It was going to be a three-month job [laughing].

Myron: Based on your experience at Disney and your current consulting work, what are the biggest challenges facing organizations today regarding customer service?

Snow: There are a few of them, but one is getting their employees to focus on the experience. So many times employees are focusing on the tasks to do the job and losing sight of the bigger picture. What are we really trying to accomplish? One of the challenges is just getting everybody aligned on what the customer experience is supposed to be and the role that they play in creating that experience. Another big challenge that we run into, and I know your audience runs into this, the biggest change in customer expectations that we've seen is speed. Service, in general, is pretty bad out there, so [for] most of us, our expectations about the service aren’t that high. I always say it’s not really that hard to impress customers, except when it comes to speed. That’s where they want their information right now in the format that they want it. That’s another challenge that we run into.

Then, how do we keep our people motivated in these challenging roles? When…you think about Disney, you think, Oh, that's fun to work there. [But] you're loading thousands of people per hour on the rides and it's hot and humid, so keeping people motivated in challenging circumstances—the other big word today is "engaged," keeping them engaged—that's the other big challenge.

Myron: One of the key points in your presentations is that organizations must understand that "everything speaks."  What do you mean by that?

Snow: That every detail of the experience is either enhancing or detracting from your brand. From the appearance and the ease of navigation of your Web site to the tone of voice of somebody that I'm talking to on the telephone to the clarity of your IVR to the appearance of your bricks and mortar location, that every detail is either enhancing the brand or detracting from the brand. So, from a design perspective and an execution perspective, everybody in the organization needs to be responsible for making sure the details—physical and attitudinal—reflect exactly the way you want the brand reflected.

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