How to "Outbehave" the Competition

Article by:
Gregg Ledderman
EO Western New York

Recently, I was checking in to a hotel and was greeted by the front desk re¬ceptionist. She was wearing a button with bright red letters that read, “Service 10.” This caught my attention, and I imme¬diately asked her what “Service 10” meant. Here’s how our conversation went

Me: What is “Service 10”?
Receptionist: (Blank stare)
Me: Certainly it must mean something?
Receptionist: (Looks over to manager at next terminal and asks, “What is 10 Ser¬vice? Can you help me explain it?”)
Me: Never mind.

Now, this was not a random motel on the interstate. It was a high-end hotel chain that any business leader would know about. Later that day, I found a sign in the lobby telling customers that “Service 10” was the company’s goal to provide great customer service. Considering that the person at the front desk responsible for assisting me with my reservation didn’t even know the definition of great service, let alone that the organization was promoting its great service to customers, I knew that my stay probably wouldn’t deliver an experience worthy of rave reviews.

This is a great example of why some com¬panies have employees who are consistently poor at delivering customer service, while others seem to be able to “outbehave” the competition, leading to stronger business re¬sults. Winning organizations understand that employees are constantly onstage, exhibit¬ing behaviors as part of their performance and orchestrating the memorable experienc¬es that help attract and retain business.

Defining and delivering “star” employee performances, in fact, is the most compel¬ling marketing investment a company can make. No one knows this better than Walt Disney Co. Its legendary customer experiences might seem like “magic,” but each interaction is based on a simple guid¬ing principle: Every employee can devel¬op positive customer relationships. Disney leaders know that investments in employee communications and training are manda¬tory in order to develop star performers.

My encounter with a knowledgeable man at a Walt Disney World theme park proves this point. Upon arrival, my wife and I looked a little lost and confused. We were immediately approached by a mainte-nance man. Although his job was to clean the park, he was equipped with so much more than a broom and dust pan. He told us everything we needed to know to ensure we’d have a great time, and even informed us that our kids could get a behind-the-scenes look at what the park had to offer.

Unlike the “Service 10” hotel, Disney recognizes that its maintenance people are essentially cast members performing in front of customers. There¬fore, they give them the training and the props to be customer “touch points” by play¬ing the role of social coordinators. In doing so, these individuals realize the star perfor¬mances they deliver daily will be shared be¬tween happy and potential customers.

How well do employees in your company understand their roles as performers? Do they know how to think, speak and behave in ways that strengthen your work culture and provide outstanding customer experiences? Think about the challenges you, as a leader, face in trying to engage employees and in-spire them to outbehave your competition.

Below are some proven methods that have helped me develop de¬sired employee behaviors and enhance both individual and team performance:

  • Clearly define behaviors that align with your company values and brand promises.
  • Conduct behavior-based hiring to en¬sure optimal fit between your company val¬ues and brand and the employee candidate.
  • Set expectations with employees around the behaviors required for each job and as-sess/review performance regularly.
  • Proactively recognize employees who help your company outbehave, and thus outperform, the competition.

These experiences taught me that every employee in every company has the potential to become a top performer. As a leader, I need to make sure that my brand is clearly defined within my or¬ganization, consistently communicated to all employee groups and integrated into leader¬ship and human resources practices so that it can be measured and managed effectively.

As unpleasant as my hotel stay was, it emphasized a simple fact that shouldn’t be ignored: On a week-to-week, day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis, a company’s brand is being delivered by employees who are either helping the company outperform or underperform. By giving them what they need to outbehave the competition, companies will become stars in their industry.

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