Leaders in every industry fall prey to a busy schedule

business art
Common sense isn’t as common as you expect.


Here’s what i always say, in somene else’s words, in an excerpt from a HBJ article. Learn (or relearn) the fundamental difference great customer service organizations, like Disney, focus on.

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When Stephen Cannon became president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, he recognized that success was about more than just his vehicles. It was about how much the people who sold and serviced the cars cared and how generously they behaved. “Every encounter with the brand,” he declared, “must be as extraordinary as the machine itself.” And almost every encounter with the brand, he understood, came down to a personal encounter with a human being in a dealership who could either act in ways that were memorable, or could act the rote way most people in most dealerships act.

Cannon also understood that if he wanted to influence the behavior of more than 23,000 employees at Mercedes dealerships, there was no rule book he could write to engineer a culture of connection and compassion. Instead, he had to convince dealers and their staffers to join a grassroots “movement” that treated kindness like a contagion.

“There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary,” Cannon told me. “The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

Over the last few years, this leap of faith unleashed all sorts of everyday acts of kindness. There was one dealer who’d closed a sale and noticed from the documents that it was the customer’s birthday. So he ordered a cake, and when the customer came in to pick up the car, had a celebration. Then there was the customer who got a flat tire on the way to her son’s graduation. She pulled into a Mercedes dealership in a panic and explained the problem. Unfortunately, there were no replacement tires in stock for her model. The service manager ran to the showroom, jacked up a new car, removed one of its tires, and sent the mother on her way. “We have so many stories like this,” Cannon says. “They’re about people going out of their way because they care enough to do something special.”

There was another ingredient to the Mercedes-Benz contagion. It’s more natural for front-line employees to show kindness towards customers, it turns out, if they are motivated by genuine pride in what they do. Harry Hynekamp, a 15-year veteran of Mercedes-Benz USA, became the first-ever general manager for customer experience. As Hynekamp and his team traveled across the country, they discovered that “pride in the brand was not quite as strong as we thought, the level of engagement with the work not as deep as we thought.”

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Ok, back to my Disney Institute voice. Hardware gets you hooked the first time. Service is what keeps you for life.


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By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.