Customer Service ~ Basil Fawlty or Walt Disney

I’ve just got back from a few days away with the family at Center Parcs in Nottinghamshire (UK). We had a great time…and whilst Center Parcs is not everyone’s thing, we love it there – It’s very relaxing and there’s something to do for most people with most budgets. I’ve been a customer for probably about 15 years going once every year or so.

Obviously during our time there we interacted with a number of Center Parcs’ staff, and my experiences ranged from below average to excellent, but on the whole pretty good. As I said, we had a great time; but it did get me to thinking how come parks like Walt Disney World can perform consistently better in the realms of looking after its customers? How can one company provide a consistently higher level of customer satisfaction and thousands of ‘Raving Fans’?

So I’ve put down some thoughts that have helped me get to some sort of conclusions:

W – Wear Customer spectacles – Get your staff to see things through the eyes of the customer. Allow your people to really understand customers and experience what they do. Ensure that EVERY member of your organisation is focussed on the customer – even (and I would say especially) those that don’t directly face customers every day.

ALWAYS deliver what you promise – Under promise and over deliver if you have to, but NEVER the other way around. ONLY THEN look for incremental positive change.

L – Look, Listen & Learn – Share all customer feedback – good and bad and ugly; and question every day how it can be done better. Get everyone to keep their ears to the ground – What great experiences have our customers had? What can we learn from other industries or our competitors? Why are customers joining us / leaving us / talking about us? All of this insight is ‘GOLD DUST’ if shared, thought about and used to power positive change.

T – Treat all your customers well – It’s often the little gestures that a customer will remember, so if you can afford it and it’s the right thing to do, do it. Hospitality for your large clients is often important and strengthens partnerships, but don’t forget that some of your smaller customers could one day be much larger and that they’ll remember those that supported them along the way!

D – Disaster Strikes – We all have disasters now and then – With complaints / major issues / customer escalations – react quickly! This is your opportunity to turn a poor brand experience around into a truly positive and memorable one, for all the right reasons!

I – Improve – Make it everyone’s responsibility to make improvements to the way you do business. It’s not always easy to engender this with your teams – but stick at it – it will pay off!

S – Smile – You will be amazed at the difference a genuine smile will have on your customers and the negative impact when you don’t. Watch out for ‘Energy Vampires’ in your organisation (thanks to Paul Sewell for that term – I’ve stolen it with pride!). Try this – watch out for the next time when you ask someone how they are and they say – ‘oh ok’ …’not bad’ … or ‘well, I’m feeling run down’ – look inside yourself and check how that made you feel – conversely when someone responds – ‘great thanks’ ….’ yeah really good’ – how does that make you feel – Well, guess what – that’s how we make our customers feel if we let them know that we’re having a bad day! Not good is it?

N – Never Stop – looking for improvements – you can always get better – you can guarantee your competitors will be watching your every move and trying to find your weak spots!

E – Enjoy – We all work hard, but find time to let your hair down with your teams – Relationships flourish when you’re having fun and it’s all about relationships – with your teams AND your customers

Y – You – It all starts with you – wherever you are in an organisation YOU can make a difference. Get practicing!


About Mark Conway
A highly motivated executive with 18 years business experience in fixed / mobile telecommunications and IT Services. A strong record of delivering sales and large-scale change programmes, improving customer experience and with a proven ability to build, lead & manage high quality teams; offering strong relationship building, commercial & decision making skills, gained working in technology and telecommunications for KC, KCOM & O2 in the UK, and with BT Wholesale, IBM, Accenture, Microsoft, Deloitte, SAP and Cisco in partnership. My Blogs: Think Oak! - Life Spirit -

14 Responses to Customer Service ~ Basil Fawlty or Walt Disney

  1. Kay S says:

    I agree with everything you say here about customer service.

    I wonder about the Walt Disney World factor though. Could it be that service in the US better because people working in the service industry rely heavily on tips? Walt Disney World was in the news last year because of complaints about low pay by employees – when you’re on the minimum wage and you have the potential to boost your take-home pay with tips, I think that probably focuses the mind on providing good service.

    • Mark Conway says:

      Thanks for your feedback Kay – The point you raise is an important one, and I think the same applies here in the UK, especially in restaurants. I just don’t think we invest enough management time training our people in the art of giving excellent customer service.

  2. A great list Mark. I should put that up on our noticeboard. I like how the list produces the acronym WALT DISNEY. Can you write a list that makes CENTER PARCS?

    Nice site btw.

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