By the time I moved from Florida to New York City in the summer of 2004, I had already had the pleasure of working for the Walt Disney Company for a few years. As luck would have it, Disney was about to re-open their flagship store in the city, so I was all but guaranteed a job. Unfortunately, the magic on Fifth Avenue was a bit lacking compared to my years at Walt Disney World.
I knew that Disney was a company that I loved, but my position in retail was quickly wearing on me. So, I made the bold move of emailing Lee Cockerell, who at the time was the Executive Vice President for all of Walt Disney World Operations. I honestly don’t even remember how or why I chose him, but it was the right choice.
Within one day I received a reply, within a week we met for coffee to discuss my future, and within a year I had my dream job with Disney Theatrical Productions.
While I no longer work for the Walt Disney Company, my experience with Lee Cockerell has had a lasting impression and made him someone I trust when it comes to advice on service, whether that be to external clients or internal employees like I was.
In his book, Cockerell outlines “The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service.” And while I wish I could go through all 39 with you, here are a few of my favorites.
Rule #1: Customer Service is Not a Department
Great service does not cost any more than average or poor service. Yes the returns it delivers are spectacular.
Thank about that. Everyone in an organization has some impact on the customer experience, and should behave as such. Your web team is responsible for how long people stay on your site. Your social media team sets the tone for your organization’s brand. Your customer service team, well, that one’s a little more obvious.
Just remember that no matter what level you’re at within a company, what you do matters to the company’s customers, even if you may not be able to see the direct correlation.
Rule #11: Become an Expert at Creating Experts
Don’t blame your supervisor or your company if you do not have the knowledge and skills you ought to have.
The main point of this rule is to remember to train those below you, but the real takeaway for me is that you have to take responsibility for your own knowledge should those above you not make that their priority.
For me, a big part of that is reading. It may not sound like much to some, but I try to read at least 25 books every year, with most of those being non-fiction. Depending on your industry, there are also many wonderful online classes that you can take for little to no cost. Some of my favorites have been via Lynda.com, Mediabistro, and CreativeLive.
Whatever it is, just never stop learning and improving, and remember to pass that mentality along to the rest of your team.
Rule #33: Never, Ever Argue with a Customer
Even the most obnoxious customers want to give you their business, and their money is worth exactly the same amount as that of the sweet, kind, gracious customers.
I’ll admit it; this was definitely the hardest rule for me. In fact, it was a related scenario that marked the end of my days in customer service. (Long story short, I felt we were being taken advantage of by a customer and refused to bend on the issue.)
While I firmly believe the rule has limits, in general it is one to work by. Nice customers and mean ones all have the same money, and unfortunately a successful organization has to be ready and willing to deal with both in order to be truly successful.
Rule #38: Keep Doing It Better
Great companies have the mentality of champion athletes and great artists and visionary inventors: they never stop searching for ways to improve.
Jim Collins wrote, “Good is the enemy of great… Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” We’ll dive deeper in that when I review Collins’ book Good to Great, but the fact remains. Great companies, and great people for that matter, never stop working to be better.
Sometimes it can be very easy to fall into a state of contentment in your work, but while I think it’s good to be happy in your situation, there is always room for change and betterment… especially considering how quickly technology has changed the landscape of business and service in recent years.
It’s a lot easier to accept these rules as truth knowing that Lee Cockerell is the epitome of “practice what you preach.” He too has since left Disney, but continues to work with them teaching at the Disney Institute, writing books on leadership and management, and consulting for organizations around the world. I look forward to checking out his latest, Career Magic, but definitely recommend checking out The Customer Rules no matter what area of business you’re in.