Guest Blogger Patricia Jackson: Disney, the Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos Do It--Why Shouldn't Your Company?

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Disney, the Ritz-Carlton, Zappos.com deliver their world-class customer experiences by creating a corporate culture that is all-encompassing.

We all know the brands: Disney, the Ritz-Carlton, Zappos.com. Unless you live under a rock, you've probably done business with at least one of these famous companies. Sure, they're renowned for their customer service, and yes, they continue to make profits when other brands are going out of business, but do you know how they deliver those world-class customer experiences? They created a corporate culture that is all-encompassing, that filters through every level of the organization and underscores every aspect of their world-class delivery of outstanding customer experiences.Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to visit or do business with these companies and was amazed at what I learned. When I had the good fortune to visit Zappos' offices in Las Vegas, I was able to experience their corporate culture firsthand, and I can tell you from the moment I stepped off the tour bus until the staff walked us back on it (cheerleader style), it was clear to me why Zappos is the best at what it does. The enthusiasm employees have about the brand isn't simply a customer service show, but provides a customer experience that reflects how much the staff enjoys its work environment. It is a company that encourages fun and individual weirdness; one of their questions in the interview process is, "How weird are you on a scale from 1-10?" Their employees enjoy where they work and what they do, and in turn, pass that attitude on to customers.

I experienced Disney firsthand as a customer, as well as studied what makes it great. Disney strives to exceed each guest's expectations and recognizes the important role each of their "cast members" plays in the organization's success.

And lastly, I attended training at the Ritz-Carlton, where I learned the importance of getting "back to basics" when it comes to customer service. That is, understanding what the customer wants and delivering on it, because it just makes sense that if you got what you wanted somewhere, you'll head back there when you want it again.

The Zappos, Disney, and Ritz-Carlton employees deliver outstanding service, but that's not the whole story.: Management at these organizations works hard every day to create a culture focused on the customer and the customer experience, and in that culture each member of the team is dedicated to--and accountable for--living the mission, vision, and values of the organization (or the "brand credo," as is the case with the Ritz-Carlton).

Here are five lessons you can take from their approach to help make your company great, even during an economic dip:

  1. Empower each employee to make decisions that will delight customers regardless of the employee's rank. Your customers should never hear employees say they cannot help you until they have spoken to their manager; employees just do what needs to be done.
  2. Create an enjoyable environment where workers like what they do, even if salary structuring isn't top-of-the-heap. Zappos has never claimed to be the highest-paying company in town, but it is dedicated to maintaining an enjoyable work environment.
  3. Lead effectively by communicating with employees. They can't deliver if they don't know what you want. For a close-up look at how this is done, read about my Ritz-Carlton training session and what living Ritz-Carlton credo means.
  4. Invest in staff learning and development. Disney has its own institute where employees go through extensive training, while the Ritz offers several classes to employees that help develop their careers within the company.
  5. Go beyond your job description. You will never hear, "That's not my job," at Disney. Walt Disney was known for sweeping around the park or emptying garbage cans. Zappos.com CEO Tony Hseih sits in a cubicle the same size as all of the employees' cubicles, in the midst of them. And unless someone tells you, you would never know that during the daily lineup, the tall gentleman standing next to you is Simon Cooper, president and COO of the Ritz-Carlton.

Customers know they will experience exemplary customer service and experiences when they deal with these famous brands. My question to you is, if Disney, Zappos, and the Ritz-Carlton can do these amazing things, shouldn't your organization do them, too?

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About the Author: Patricia Jackson is CEO of Xpect Results LLC

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