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The former EVP of Walt Disney World shares indispensible Rules for serving customers with consistency, efficiency, creativity, sincerity, and excellence. Lee Cockerell knows that success in business ? any business - depends upon winning and keeping customers.
In 39 digestible, bite-sized chapters, Lee shares everything he has learned in his 40+ year career in the hospitality industry about creating an environment that keeps customers coming ...
The former EVP of Walt Disney World shares indispensible Rules for serving customers with consistency, efficiency, creativity, sincerity, and excellence. Lee Cockerell knows that success in business – any business - depends upon winning and keeping customers.
In 39 digestible, bite-sized chapters, Lee shares everything he has learned in his 40+ year career in the hospitality industry about creating an environment that keeps customers coming back for more. Here, Lee not only shows why the customer always rules, but also the Rules for serving customers so well they'll never want to do business with anyone but you. For example:
Rule #1: Customer Service Is Not a Department
Rule #3: Great Service Follows the Laws of Gravity
Rule #5: Ask Yourself "What Would Mom Do?"
Rule #19: Be a Copycat
Rule #25. Treat Every Customer like a Regular
Rule #39: Don’t Try Too Hard
As simple as they are profound, these principles have been shown to work in companies as large as Disney and as small as a local coffee shop; from businesses selling cutting-edge technologies like computer tablets to those selling products as timeless as shoes and handbags; at corporations as long-standing as Ford Motors and those as nascent as a brand new start-up. And they have been proven indispensible at all levels of a company, from managers responsible for hiring and training employees, setting policies and procedures, and shaping the company culture to front line staff who deal directly with clients and customers
Chock-full of universal advice, applicable online and off, The Customer Rules is the essential handbook for service excellence everywhere.
From the Hardcover edition.
"At Zappos, many of our business decisions revolve around the customer. Lee Cockerell understands the importance of a great customer experience and shows you how to Deliver Happiness to your customers."
-Tony Hsieh, NY Times bestselling author of "Delivering Happiness" and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.
“These Rules rule. If you play by these rules you will win.” – Carl Sewell, Chairman of Sewell Automotive Companies and author of the million copy bestseller Customers for Life”
"The Customer Rules is easy to read and understand, but profound in so many ways! If companies and leaders would follow this advice their customers and business would be significantly better." -Al Weiss, Former President, Disney Parks and Resorts,Worldwide
“I don’t know many people who know more about customer service than Lee Cockerell. If you want to create raving fans and have customers brag about you, read his book, The Customer Rules. It will send you in the right direction.- Ken Blanchard, co-author, The One Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level
“No matter what industry you’re in or what kind of company you work for, if customer service isn’t priority, your business will get crushed. This book shows that any employee at any level of an organization can take pride in serving customers with excellence – in doing so they bolster both their career and their company profits!” -Marshall Goldsmith – New York Times bestselling author of MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.
“Lee Cockerell offers practical, reader friendly suggestions and guidelines which can be implemented immediately to enhance and improve customer service at any company.”
-Fred Whyte, President, STIHL Incorporated
"Lee Cockerell has written a wise and practical book chock full of ideas about delivering sensational service. He illustrates his lessons with engaging stories about real-life people doing extraordinary things for others. I love it." -Mark Sanborn, Bestselling author of The Fred Factor
You Win Customers One at a Time and Lose Them a Thousand at a Time
T here’s an old saying in business: “You win customers one at a time, and you lose them one at a time.” It’s outdated. In the age of social media, you can easily lose customers a thousand--even a -million--at a time. With a few keystrokes, one unhappy, frustrated, ticked-off customer can now tell her whole e‑mail list, all her Facebook friends, and everyone who reads her blog or follows her on Twitter why they should not do business with you. She can voice her outrage into a smartphone and put it up on YouTube with clever graphics. With a little creativity, she can even go Michael Moore on you and shoot a mini-documentary, complete with music and special effects, and generate enough viral buzz to do serious damage to your business. One major airline found this out the hard way when they made soldiers returning from Afghanistan pay baggage fees for their fourth bag. The soldiers made a video of the incident and put it up on YouTube. Within a day, the airline received thousands of complaints and was forced to back down.
True, satisfied customers can also spread the word about what they like about a company. But will they? Maybe, if they’re truly blown away by how great you are. But angry people are far more motivated to shout about their feelings, and furious exposés get a lot more attention than glowing testimonials. Humans are wired to pay more attention to the negative than the positive--it’s an evolutionary mechanism designed to keep us safe from danger. It’s why drivers slow down to look at car wrecks, not at Good Samaritans helping someone fix a flat tire. It’s why we remember warnings a lot better than we do recommendations. It’s built into our DNA.
I know about that dynamic from my own experience. I see good service all the time, but I don’t always go out of my way to write about it. However, when that same major airline once greeted a reasonable request of mine with a shocking and immediate “No,” I quickly posted a detailed description of my experience on my website blog.
Here’s what happened. I had decided to combine some speaking engagements with a vacation for my wife and me, plus my son, his wife, and their three kids. The arrangement involved flying from Orlando to Boston, then on to Paris, and later from Paris to Johannesburg, South Africa, before returning to Orlando. I booked the flights through the airline, and let me tell you it was not cheap. About a month before the trip, I received an attractive invitation to give a speech in Boston. All it required was a slight change in my travel schedule. Not wanting to give up the opportunity or the fee, I told the rep that I wanted to cancel the Orlando to Boston segment of my itinerary and then board the Boston to Paris flight with my current ticket. That’s all. I didn’t ask for any money back for the unused flight. I didn’t want to rearrange any of the other six tickets. I just wanted not to get on one of the flights. I was even willing to pay more, because fares had gone up since I’d bought the tickets. Their answer: “No.” I spoke to several customer reps, and all I got was a chorus of “No.” Why? Because it’s their policy. You can’t change anything. If you’re not on the Orlando to Boston flight, we will cancel the rest of your ticket, they told me. In other words, I had a choice: Either turn down the speaking opportunity or cancel my entire vacation. It is hard to imagine a dumber policy or a more self-defeating response to a request. I now fly with that airline only when there is no other way to get to my destination, even though I’ve accumulated so many frequent-flier miles with them that I’m often upgraded. But the upgrade is just one of their services, like online check‑in. They don’t seem to understand the difference between services like those and respectful, competent customer service with a human touch.
In my own small way, I am sending a message to that airline that shoddy service exacts a high cost. I tell that story in my speeches and workshops, often contrasting it with happy stories of flying other airlines that consistently do a great job of customer service.
The point is, every time a customer comes into contact with your business, whether in person, on the phone, or on your website, it’s a moment of truth. Your reputation is about to get either better or worse. If you do something to tick off your customer at that moment of truth, you can bet hers won’t be the only business you lose. Do something that adds value at that moment of truth, and he will look forward to coming back and will tell others about you. Do something that adds a lot of value, and that customer might be so stunned by your sincere, thoughtful, friendly, resourceful service that she’ll go straight to her computer and tell the world. Satisfied customers are the best marketing staff you can possibly have. They, not your advertisements, are your true messengers. If that airline’s service was half as good as its commercials, I would still be a happy customer.
Great Service Follows the Law of Gravity
It’s a simple law of nature: The service ethos starts at the top. From there, it works its way down to every level of an organization. This is not a mere trickle-down effect; it flows quickly and surely, more like a waterfall than a faucet.
Whenever you see truly great service, whether it’s from a local coffee shop or a global fast-food chain, a small financial services firm or a multinational bank, a rural clinic or a gigantic city hospital, it’s a good bet that a senior person has made customer service an integral part of his or her strategy. Unless the people at the top of an organization, division, or department are dedicated to developing and maintaining superior service, it won’t happen. They have to create the right agenda, allocate the necessary resources, establish the appropriate priorities, and set the proper tone. The best of those leaders also serve as role models, demonstrating the attributes of great service with every word, action, and communication--not just with customers, but with suppliers, colleagues, employees, and everyone else who has an impact on the way business is done.
In my experience, the leaders of companies that don’t provide good service--the companies that consumers complain about the most--usually have the least people-oriented strategy. Their focus is on products, sales, marketing, and other business concerns. Those are all vital, of course, but in today’s world they’re not enough to drive long-term success. Managers have to recognize that sustained profits depend on their ability to generate consistent, ongoing, excellent service that keeps customers coming back and singing their praises.
During my career, I worked for three companies where sensational service generated spectacular business results: Hilton, Marriott, and Disney. In all those places, the service ethos flowed from the top. At Walt Disney World, for instance, when Judson Green, the head of parks and resorts, decided to radically change the corporate culture, he stood up in front of seven thousand managers in Orlando and told them exactly what he wanted to see happen. Then he went to Disneyland in California and on to France and Japan, laying out the same vision for the employees in each of those facilities. As someone who played a major role in designing and executing the plan, I can tell you that Judson’s 100 percent commitment was contagious--as was mine and that of every other leader, at every level and at every stage of the rollout. Slowly but surely, everyone in the company learned that just having outstanding parks and the most recognized name in recreation and entertainment was not enough. Customers also need the emotional satisfaction of being treated like the most important people in the world. That add‑on essentially became the Disney World brand.
No matter what your role or title, you can do a lot more to spread the ethos of service in your department, or within your own team, than you might think you can. Yes, the law of service gravity begins at the top, but the top is wherever you are. If you go to work every morning focused on customer service, you’ll be surprised how powerful your example is and how quickly your mind--set will flow to those both under and around you. Remember, role modeling is by far the best teacher, and you are being watched every second of the day.
A few years ago, I read a book titled Leading Out Loud. It had a big impact on me. Its basic premise is that great leaders speak loudly and often about what they want their organizations to focus on and what employees are expected to do to achieve those goals. It’s not unlike parenting. All parents know that they have to speak up over and over again to make sure their children understand and adopt the right values, behaviors, and social skills.
Whether it’s raising children to grow up with integrity and respect for themselves and others or inspiring employees and colleagues to serve customers with excellence, you have to lead out loud. It will be a win‑win for everyone concerned: you, your team, your customers, and everyone with a stake in your bottom line.
Posted March 26, 2013
The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential rules for Delivering Sensational Service
by Lee Cockerell
How do you “do” customer service? Lee Cockerell, former executive vice president of Disney World, walks the reader through 39 rules for providing a superior experience to customers that will guarantee a high rate of returns.
Cockerell’s writing is crisp and clear. Every chapter is another of the thirty-nine rules, and I think the longest chapter was all of seven pages long. He gets to the point, but he also illustrates with plenty of examples from his own life or other companies. He applies the rules to high-level executives and fast-food workers. He makes it clear that no matter your job, you can apply his rules and give the customer great service. His conversational tone keeps things moving in a friendly and encouraging way.
Wait a second – I'm a pastor! Why am I reviewing a book clearly aimed at someone trying to climb a corporate ladder or get more customers into their store?
You could argue that everything a pastor does is customer service. Granted, what we are “selling” is completely free: It’s the water of life, given freely by my “boss” Jesus. However, there are a number of parallels, and I know a number of pastors that glean good info from business writing. (Incidentally, I use a lot of Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in my everyday life.)
Of course, a pastor needs to be careful reading this (just like any “church executive”). Not every rule applies well. “Never say no” would be a rule well worth tossing out; there are times a pastor must stand with God’s Word and simply say ‘no.’ “Be nice” is another rule I’d say to throw out. Be loving, yes. Be nice? Not so much. There’s too much room for serving the person at the expense of serving Jesus. He comes first, right?
On the other hand, many of the rules I read helped me. I considered “customers” to be anyone I serve, from the church council to the little old ladies to visitors in the church. What I found was that I serve certain groups of people far better than others. I’m very visitor-oriented, to the point that this book reminded me I was ignoring my “executives” – the church council. I haven’t served them well outside of times of crisis. God used the book to remind me to serve them, too – and I’m putting my money where my mouth is. In about a month, I’ve already scheduled to have them and their families all over to my place for a non-meeting meal.
Rule #11 hit me hard as well: “Become an expert at creating experts.” I love teaching God’s Word, and I’m constantly encouraging my people to do the same. But I’m not great at following up on that.
Many of Cockerell’s rules really repeat the same information in new ways or with different applications, but he wisely switches up focus. In a way, the book reminds me of Proverbs – some repetition, but enough variation that it merely enforced the main messages rather than grew tedious.
There’s some good food for thought here for ministers on how to serve visitors, but even more how to serve their members. It’s worldly wisdom, but wisdom that can be applied. I’m sure there are more focused books out there for ministers, but Cockerell’s friendly style, to-the-point delivery, and lively examples may help especially young ministers (like me!). I’d recommend checking it out from a library or picking it up from your local bookstore if you want a simple quick read to get you thinking on your own “customer service.”