• MSCA Conference Message: No 'Pixie Dust'for Customer Service

    Nov. 1, 2012
    A customer focus creates a positive experience.

    Nobody wants to see Cinderella with a cigarette in her mouth. Dennis Snow saw a smoking Cinderella during the 20 years that he worked at Disney World, but it was in an employee break area. Similarly, service contractors have internal issues that their customers should never see.

    Consultant Snow provided contractors with a how-to for creating a service-driven organization during the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA) conference and exposition in Carlsbad, CA in October.

    As an example of back-of-the-house clash that never should have been public, Snow showed a video of an on-air television news argument that became the subject of a Saturday Night Live spoof.

    To begin with, Snow asked the contractors for their impressions of Disney World, and not one of them mentioned the rides. That’s as it should be, Snow noted, because all amusement parks have rides but only one is Disney.

    Sure, your technical skills are great, Snow told the contractors, but the customer assumes that they are. Service contractors need to offer something more. A task-based mentality makes the customer feel “processed.” A customer focus, on the other hand, creates a positive experience.

    “There is no pixie dust,” Snow observed, especially for the Disney employees inside a costume in central Florida in August. First, contractors must look at everything through the eyes of the customer. It’s a mindset, Snow said. Service contractors are in a position to help customers navigate through all of their pressures, such as tenant complaints and energy bills. Don’t assume the customer knows the same things about mechanical systems, HVAC, water conservation or utility bills that you do, he advised.

    Know what frustrates your customers, and do something about it.

    Snow recommended that contractors get their teams together and perform “service mapping” — what are all the steps involved in servicing a customer, but seen through the eyes of the customer. At each step, contractors should ask their employees, what would mediocre customer service look like at this step? What would excellent customer service look like?

    Point number two: pay attention to details because everything speaks to the customer and it either enhances or detracts from your brand. What do your vehicles look like, and not just on the outside? Is the dashboard covered with papers and trash? The customer sees that. Watch out for backstage attitudinal stuff that the customer might see or overhear.

    “What are your potential smoking Cinderella behaviors,” he asked. Make a list of your top 10 commitments to customers that define your operation and make sure all the details of how you look and say and act communicate what you want to say to the customer. Your brand is fragile, he noted.

    Third, create “moments of wow.” They don’t need to be big because little moments add up on the phone or face to face or on your website. Customers have a hierarchy of expectations, Snow explained, starting with accuracy of your work and availability when they need you. Those two are fundamental, just the price of entry, and you can’t create “moments of wow” from them. While you can’t get extra credit for doing things right at this level, it is possible to do things wrong and anger the customer. You can, however, score points for the next two levels. Next in the order of expectations is “partnership.” The client wants to feel that you care about him and his building. The highest level is as an advisor when a contractor’s technicians can teach the customer things about taking care of a building’s systems that the customer did not know before.

    Fourth, know what frustrates your customers and do something about it. One would hope that what frustrates them is not the contractor’s processes themselves, which are so broken that a contractor’s team could not fix them even if given the leeway to do so. Once a quarter, Snow advised, ask your people what frustrates customers. Not every problem will be fixable, but a contractor should fix the ones he can. “When you put the right tools in the hands of your people, they will take it to the next level.” Snow said. “Set your folks up to be heroes.”