This article in Sunday’s Times talked about how Walt Disney has a consulting business that tries to bring the magic of Disney World into the corporate boardrooms of companies like Haagen-Dazs, United Airlines, and the Country of South Africa. (Who knew that countries hired consultants?) I recommend you read the article; it’s interesting. But in case you don’t have time to read all 1,200+ words, here are some of the nuggets about what the Disney consultants teach that I garnered from reading it:
- Maryland teachers were instructed to engage children by crouching and speaking to them at eye level.” In other words, know your customers, and speak to them on their level. Something we should all do, whether our “customers” are kindergarteners or CEOs.
- “Chevrolet dealers were taught to think in theater metaphors: onstage, where smiles greet potential buyers, and offstage, where sales representatives can take out-of-sight cigarette breaks.” So, show your customer your best self. Keep any areas the customers see—especially the bathrooms—clean and tidy. The employee break room? If the employees want to keep it messy, that’s their business.
- The dealership also might install a playground for kids of shopping parents, and return cars to customers with water bottles branded with the dealerships’ logo. The first point is an important one—pay attention to things that are keeping you from making sales. Maybe it’s that the customers’ kids get bored and cranky and beg them to leave. Then a playground is the perfect solution. Maybe it’s the time it takes to buy a car and do all the paperwork is too long, and people get hungry. If that’s the case, either provide good food, or decrease the time from the time someone walks in to the time they walk out.
The second point in this bullet is also import, though it might seem minor. Little touches, like branded bottle water, washing the car for you, remembering your name, can make someone come back to you for service. I kept going back to a little mom and pop service station after the guy took the time to hose down my beat up Acura for me after changing my oil.
- Disney’s consultants advised a Florida children’s hospital to welcome patients in an entertaining way, so they hired a ukulele player to greet people. He dresses in safari gear. This is a case of putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. Can you imagine anything scarier than bringing your kid to the hospital, or going to the hospital if you were a kid? Something to lighten the situation would surely help in both cases.
I always find it interesting that outsiders usually have to come in to tell you what you’re doing wrong (and right). Sometimes that’s because you’re too close to your baby (your company) to be able to see problems. Sometimes it’s just because you’re too busy to do things like give your customers surveys and sift through the data. But we can all spend a few minutes a week doing the tasks I highlighted above, namely:
- Making sure you are speaking to your customers in their language, or a common language, not in the jargon of your industry.
- If you have a business where customers come to your office, look at the space with fresh eyes. Is there anything dirty or out of date that needs to be cleaned or replaced?
- Think back to the last three times you didn’t make a sale. Do you know what got in your way? Is it anything you can fix, or propose fixing?
- What “little touches” can you do to help people remember you and trust you?
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What do they want and need, and how can you help them?
Let me know if you find any of these tips helpful!
Christine Junge is a science writer, editor, and copy writer, living and working in the Boston area.