Seasons 52 is just one of the three benchmarks we’ll be visiting in this May’s ASTD program.
A distinct feature about World Class Benchmarking programs is that we spend very little time in the classroom. We usually are out on the road visiting some of the really great organizations out there. They must be great, because eight of those organizations we have benchmarked showed up this year in Fortune 100 Magazine’s Top 100 Organizations to Work for in 2013. Along with their ranking, they include:
34. Rackspace Hosting
41. Mayo Clinic
64. Marriott International
65. Darden Restaurants
71. Whole Foods Market
Congratulations to all of these organizations! They are fantastic, and have been great benchmarking partners. Moreover, are participants are continually wowed by these and our other 20 benchmarks that we have used.
If you’re interested in attending, please join us! We have an open enrollment program on May 7-10th here in Orlando, Florida. If you’re attending this May’s ASTD’s International Conference in Dallas, we’ll be there with a pre-program workshop. We’ll also be providing a pre-program workshop this fall in San Diego this year for SHRM’s Strategic Conference. Great events! Don’t miss them.
Participants in our Lead With Your Customer program receiving tips from employees on shifting a Harley bike.
Motorcycle engines have all sorts of sophisticated terms and parts. One of them is something called a shift points. A shift point is the best engine r.p.m. at which to shift gears. With most Harley makes you have six shift points.
But at Orlando Harley, their six shift points refer to something else as well. Those shift points make up an interesting acronym that sets employees standards about how customers should be treated. Here they are:
Make sure you greet the customer when near them.
This is not always so easy with individuals who would rather focus on a bike rather than on customers. But even at Harley, your staff has to be approachable. And I would say at Orlando Harley, they very much are.
Of course the bikes need to be reliable. But so do the people. When you say you’re going to have a repair done by a certain time, you need to live up to that.
L Look It Up.
No one has all the answers. Don’t be afraid to look up the answer when you don’t know it.
It’s a Harley! There’s nothing quite like being a H.O.G. (Harley Owner’s Group) member. Make sure you celebrate the spirit and joy of riding when you are around customers.
Y Thank You.
It’s not a small thing to buy a Harley Davidson. Customers make a serious investment. And they could buy elsewhere. Make sure you show your appreciation for their doing business with you.
Coined by Orlando Harley Davidson’s Michele Sullivan, these six points are part of an important training employees go through. Other organizations have their own expected behaviors. Harley makes theirs unique to their culture.
- What behavioral expectations do you have of your employees when they are with your customers?
- How do you make those behaviors part of your culture?
Did you know that since 2005 Harley Davidson has been one of the great benchmarks we visit in our World Class Benchmarking, Lead With Your Customer program? To visit Harley, and other fantastic benchmarks like JetBlue, Disney and Give Kids the World, contact us today!
Forbes Magazine has named Sammamish, Washington as the friendliest city in America. With a population of 46,700, this bedroom community to Microsoft was ranked by Nextdoor.com, a San Francisco-based social network for neighborhoods that assess small metro areas with populations between 5,500 and 150,000.
There are a number of factors that lend themselves to be chosen. Forbes reports that nearly 90% of the residents of this Seattle suburb own their own homes. Crime is low as is unemployment. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and overlooking a lake, Sammamish offers outdoor activities like skiing, water sports, hiking and biking. Community-organized events include a weekly farmer’s market, a Concerts in the Park series, Shakespeare in the Park, Sammamish Days and Nights Jazz Music, and an annual arts fair.
But what really makes a town great can’t always be measured quantitatively. Said one six-year resident Katy Chung, “I have never lived in a community that’s more welcoming…When we first moved here, neighbors came out of their homes to introduce themselves and give me delivery menus!”
I’ve worked with the City of Sammamish for many years in an effort to make its employees more customer-friendly. This is a great group of people who truly go out of their way for their residents. I remember many stories of helping people get sidewalks cleared of snow or removing limbs from a storm. One story shared was about a women who accidentally lost her keys down a curbed gutter. City employees went out, got in the sewer system and fetched the keys.
If I were to give credit to any one individual I would say it’s Ben Yazici, City manager. He was appointed back in 2001 but served with the city even prior. City councilmen have come and gone, but Ben has a persistent vision about being there for citizens and of setting the tone for the community. There is an energy and drive he brings to that is contagious. People want to make the city succeed.
Congratulations to Sammamish! You are a great example of what cities can do for their citizens!
In earlier days of coal mining, there was a concern about ventilation. Methane and carbon monoxide gases were a poison that could take the life of a miner before it was too late.
To resolve that concern, canaries were brought down in cages to accompany the workers. Carnaries were even more sensitive to those gases and would pass out long before the miners did. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary was a sign to evacuate immediately.
A very different signal comes from this ball of birch mulch.
Found in Japan, this balls unusual ornaments were hung over Sake during the fermentation period. When the birch has turned from green to brown, then you know that the sake has sufficiently fermented. Truly nature has provided her own time table.
Nature provides many signs for us. The first falling leaf, the first snow fall, the first bud in the spring. So it is with organizations. What are the signs that your organization is succeeding? What are the signs that your corporate culture is what you want it to be? What are the signs that you need to make changes before its too late?
“Service is not only a matter of being pleasant to customers—just as being a doctor is not only a matter of having a comforting bedside manner—but also of understanding the systems that make customer satisfaction possible.”
“Understanding how and why the whole system works is the fundamental expertise of service professionals.”
“Ideas at Work, “ Harvard business Review
Just recently our World Class Benchmarking program had the opportunity to provide a great pre-program benchmarking experience in Palm Springs for the SHRM Strategic Conference. One of our opportunities was to provide a benchmark of Desert Recreation. Often our program benchmarks are of renown organizations such as Wynn Hotels, Mayo Clinic and McDonald’s Hamburger University. But we have had association with this group over the years, and so we decided to try them out as a benchmark–even though no one in the group had ever heard of them.
As part of the tour we walked through one of their recreation facilities. In many ways, there’s nothing too special. The facility is several years old–it was by no means sleek and cool. But the staff was energetic, and the place was bustling with people who were enjoying the facilities. There was something in every corner of the building from basketball games to ballet demonstrations to gymnastics practices.
We sat down and heard from Kevin Kalman, who is general manager for Desert Recreation. His story isn’t too unlike so many other organizations that struggle to make do with less–especially when government funding is shortened year after year. The organization had long taken seriously the importance of great customer service. But after a number of years, the customer experience became one of excellent “crappy” service. What does that mean? It means that you can have the kindest, most considerate, most “go-out-of-your-way” staff available, but if there is no air conditioning in the gym, or the coach makes a no show, or there’s no room to sign up for the after school program, it doesn’t mean much.
Desert Recreation knows that it can’t just focus on the service delivery of their employees. They must look at the whole picture. We speak of this in our book, Lead With Your Customer. We note 6 Ps:
Promise: The brand promise you make to your customers. In this instance, it’s the promise of recreational opportunities that truly meet the needs of your constituents. For Desert Recreation, that meant pulling back and focusing only on those things they could really deliver on well, and that mattered most to constituents. Their annual soap box derby was one such example. It was a fun event, but it only delivered to a relatively few, and many of those were not even within the local community.
People: Those serving on the front line. They had this nailed. And honestly, I never saw such a small–and young–team of people anxious to do their best.
Place: The ‘onstage’ setting for your services and offerings. Too often the budget for maintenance was sacrificed for the sake of providing every possible program they could. Again, that tends to create a mediocre offering.
Process: The policies, procedures and rules that govern the delivery of your products and services. At Desert Recreation, it’s about what time you open and close; who can play basketball and when; how do I get a refund if I don’t like the program I’m in. What happens when a coach is absent? You have to create processes that are as flexible as the individual needs of your customers.
Product: The goods you offer to customers. Ballet, Zumba, weight rooms, and after-school care. Those are the products, but again, they are only as good as they people, place, and processes that support them.
Price: This is the tangible and intangible costs to the customer. How big a hassle is it to enroll? Is it worth getting going there to work out? Am I getting value for my money?
Look at your own organization. The customer experience is not just about how “friendly” your employees are–as important as that is. It’s about over delivering on your promise through your people and place and process and product. It’s about whether the people, place, process and product is worth the price. A great customer service experience is fully integrated and delivers on its promise. There’s no cute gimmick to this. You don’t need to give them a “pickle.” You don’t need to get your employees to toss a “fish.” Neither do you need to move everyone’s “cheese.” You need to deliver on your promises and make sure that what you deliver is worth the price. To do otherwise, may only provide excellent “crappy” service.
We help organizations to avoid the dilemma of excellent “crappy” service. Please contact us, and we can help your organization move forward.
A tradition growing up in my home and later with my kids was carving pumpkin. This exercise in creativity had an important purpose: It was an invitation to let trick or treaters know that they could come to our home to get candy. We knew that going out, if there wasn’t some pumpkin or other decoration in the window, to move on to the next house.
I passed by my Home Depot and found the same invitation–not to candy, but to their store in general. It wasn’t part of some effort to sell Halloween lights. It was really just a way to welcome customers this time of year. It also was used to highlight their services. Here’s one for the lighting section:
This set of pumpkins focused on the paint department:
And of course, the most terrifying one is at the cash register:
It’s a simple thing really, but consciously or sub-consciously it sends a message of friendliness and hospitality. Ask yourself, what do you do to highlight your products and services in a friendly way around the holidays?
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant
Many employees would say their “work sucks” But few employers will acknowledge it. If there’s an exception, it would be the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. Just go to their web site where they explain the two universal truths:
“Anyone can be Irish, given the proper coaxing.
“An everyone agrees, work does indeed suck.
“But unless you were born with a silver spoon in your gob, you’ve got to do it.
“So you may as well do it with laughter, with a song and with more than a bit of gaiety when the work is done.
“Now that’s our idea of worker’s compensation.”
It’s clear they have a certain attitude there. It’s throughout their restaurant experience, For example, their menu explains a number of FAQ–Frequently Annoying Questions:
- Yes, the pub came from Ireland. The bars are 130 years old. Much like we feel at 2 am.
- No, we stand corrected. The restrooms did come from Wisconsin (Go Wisconsin!)
- Yes, some Irish guys own it. Their bank manager will be delighted to see you here.
- No, our servers will not try an Irish dance–we tried them out and it was just ugly…
- Yes, our food is different. It’s what we eat in Ireland today (5 hours ago actually).
- No, we don’t know how our Chef Kevin looks so young for an 80 year old man.
- Yes, he has cooked for Queen Elizabeth and U2
- No, he won’t accept low quality ingredients.
- Yes, our house band plays 6 nights a week. Talented too, but don’t tell them.
- No, we don’t serve half pints. Its grounds for imprisonment back home in Ireland.
- Yes, our Irish dancers are pretty handsome and they did all dance for that famous fancy pants dance group.
- No, they are not on the dating market (The line starts here…)
- Yes, you can dance if the urge takes hold of you.
- No, thanks but we’d rather not watch. Delicate tummies you know.
As you can see that they bring their own sense of humor into their culture. It’s what makes for a unique brand. It also serves as an important part of any “worker’s compensation.” It’s the intangible value your employees get from working for you.
What is your “worker’s compensation” when it comes to doing business with you?
A Disney Cast Member (Employee) playfully greeting Guest with "Stitch" gloves outside of Casey's, a hot dog concession on Main Street, USA at the Magic Kingdom..
Why would you want to work at Disney if Universal or Sea World was paying a you more per hour to work there? Why would you travel all the way out to the Magic Kingdom, get on a bus, walk through a utilidor before punching your time card and going to work, when you could go a few blocks down the street and be there in no time?
The answer is the Disney Difference. More than a slogan, this expression has come to represent over the year’s Disney’s effort to brand the benefits behind working at Disney. As Walt Disney World grew in terms of the number of parks, resorts, and other recreational offerings, it has become increasingly difficult to hire and retain employees. Furthermore, competition has grown over the years, bringing efforts to lure Disney employees away to work elsewhere in the community. Some competitors, like hotel chains, have outstanding benefits already in place. Other competitors simply make it easier to work for.
So the answer to all of this was to create the Disney Difference. Essentially this is a packaging of all the discounts, services, and offerings available to Cast Members and their families. First of these, is the ability to enjoy the parks for themselves, their family, and friends of guests for free. But beyond this, the Disney Difference is much more:
- scores of local organizations offering discounts in food, merchandise, housing and more
- an employee-exclusive recreation area with a beach, pools and sports field
- a Disney VoluntEARS group with a wide array of creative community service projects
- a number of diversity resource groups that support its diverse employee population
- your work costume provided to you, with options to have it cleaned and ironed for you
- several onsite day-care facilities
- apartments dedicated to international and college program employees
- onsite health care facilities and a range of programs that encourage health and fitness
- reward and recognition programs that are distinctly Disney and particularly performance based
- one-of-a-kind Cast Member activities like the annual canoe races or Goofy’s Mystery Tour competition
- most importantly, it’s about the privilege of being part of something very special and bringing that to Disney’s guests
Beyond this, Disney spends much effort not only communicating these benefits to existing and prospective employees, but also branding them like a Disney movie. The packaging bundled together keep current Cast Members focused on the size and scope of the benefit package, constantly communicating all the benefits that are available. The goal is to encourage employees to use their benefits as much as possible, so they feel they are getting as much extra value being a Disney Cast Member.
Under the banner of the Disney Difference and with Tinkerbell serving as sort of a mascot, Disney would publish a pocket guide that let Cast Members know all the resources Disney was offering.
The cumulative effect is that the Disney Difference attracts and retains the kind of employees Disney wants to retain. In every one of their 3,000 job categories, retention levels are much higher than the national average. Moreover, they’ve retained people who largely love the heritage and offerings Disney makes to its guests, and find joy in being part of such a unique experience. Indeed, many Cast Members are passionate about working in such a magical place–even though they are the people who make the place magical. As its publication states:
You make the Disney Difference
The services and programs represented…also distinguish the Walt Disney World Resort from other area employers. Simply put, it’s the Disney Difference–the basis for everything we do.
Starting with our Cast Members, the Disney Difference is an environment in which Cast Members feel comfortable and welcome. Where people care about their jobs and about each other. Where our guiding principles are to respect, appreciate and value everyone. Where all are inspired and challenged to grow to their fullest potential.
The Disney Difference is that feeling of being part of something very special. It’s the sense of contributing to a growing and profitable enterprise. It’s the advantage of size that provides us with an array of opportunities and a variety of roles to which we can aspire.
The Disney Difference is the pride you feel because you’re part of the Disney Family…Together we create those feelings for ourselves. We deliver the results. And we create the Disney Difference. The Disney Difference is the way we do things at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Rather than thinking about how to cut back on benefits, Disney is at its best when it focuses on improving the mental benefits of working at Disney. We call this Psychic Income. Though, clearly, there are benefits from the status of working for a world-class organization, there’s an even more influential consideration. People don’t work because of the brick, mortar, or logo but because of the culture of the organization. The benefit of working for an organization must be as real and tangible as the ones customers receive from doing business with you. As such, every company must be unique. And at Disney, they call that the Disney Difference.
- What is the psychic income for working at your place?
- What is the “difference” that sets your organization apart from others?
- How do you brand that “difference?”
- How does that “difference” help you to attain and retain the best employees possible?
Participants meeting before Nordstrom opens with store management.
Many people know Nordstrom as being one of the best customer-savvy deliverers in the country. And many of those same people have become loyal customers themselves. But because of their very modest corporate culture, few really know what has made this small shoe store become such a major retailer.
When we benchmark Nordstrom in our programs it usually happens early in the morning—before the store arrives and customers come in. We hear from store management about their approach for creating a high performing culture. At the core of this is their organizational structure. Rather than focusing on a top-down organization, Nordstrom prefers a model in which they seem themselves as an executive and management team that is there to support the front line, which is then responsible for providing for the customer.
Turning the organizational pyramid upside down--and meaning it!
Following an early meeting with management, we often head into Nordstrom’s pre-shift meeting. Prior to opening, Nordstrom conducts a pre-shift meeting—and most employees working off of commissions, voluntarily attend on their own time. Each store handles it differently, but there is always much celebration and recognition given to not only sales but to service.
Afterwards the store is open for business, and it’s a great chance to see the operation directly. What really stands out is how the store manager usually spends the bulk of the day on the floor supporting sales staff, rather than sitting in the back of the house in an office.
- Do you host a pre-shift meeting or some event where you note what is going well, as well as discuss opportunities for improvement?
- How often do you ask others what you can do to support them, rather than emphasize what they need to do to support you as a manager?
- How do you train, develop, and empower your employees to provide in-the-moment service recovery when needed?
Ray Kroc's office is showcased for guests visiting McDonald's Hamburger University.
Last year McDonald’s Hamburger University celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1961 the first Hamburger University met in a basement of a McDonald’s restaurant. Its first class of 15 students would graduate from this training center. Today, on a beautiful park-like setting in Oak Brook, IL and in locations worldwide, more than 5,000 restaurant managers, mid-managers and owner/operators graduate annually.
Today Hamburger U is 130,000-foot facility complete with auditoriums, teaching rooms, interactive team rooms, kitchen labs, and state-of-the-art service training labs. Beyond its campus in Chicago, Hamburger University’s Global Learning Approach allows training materials and tools to be integrated into different languages and cultures.
Kitchens at Hamburger University are completely like the ones at the restaurants with the exception of actual vehicles going through the drive-through.