It’s a pretty safe bet that every company, regardless of what they sell, makes extravagant claims of the customer service they offer. “Best in the business” is a claim we have all heard, or made ourselves. …”We deliver crappy customer service,” said no salesperson ever!

Stellar customer service is often a major focal point in any product or service evaluation because very few things purchased are ever problem-free.  And as consumers, we manage the risk of our purchases with the comfort that comes from knowing that the company we are buying from will take care of us if something goes wrong.  Customer service is often the single biggest factor in customer loyalty and repeat business.  This is certainly true for commercial real estate and property management and the impact on retention and lease renewals.

I had the opportunity to hear a terrific speaker and presentation at a recent customer conference I attended who shared valuable insights into what it takes to create the mindset in any organization required to deliver truly great customer service.

Dennis Snow is a former Disney Executive who wrote a fun, easy read called “Lessons from the Mouse.”  In his presentation (and in the book,) he shared insightful and funny stories from his days at Disney.  They included starting his career as Captain Nemo greeting park guests through to his days as a senior executive driving how Disney embeds their customer service credo in every single possible customer interaction.

If you think delivering great customer service at a fun place like DisneyWorld is easy, think about Disney characters in their costumes “on-stage” in August,  sweltering in the heat answering questions like, “What time does the 3:00 parade start?” Or “Where is Cinderella’s castle?” …while standing in front of the Castle. And, “Space Mountain is closed! How could you ruin our family vacation?”

Disney trains their employees how to graciously answer these questions and handle an indeterminable number of other possible guest interactions by beginning with an unwavering commitment that includes:  hiring for the right attributes, intensive and persistent training, empowering their employees to make a difference, and guidance provided by several key guiding principles.

These principles include:

  • View every process and interaction through the “Lens of the Customer.
  • Recognize that “Everything Speaks.
  • Create opportunities for “Wow Moments.
  • And make sure you clearly understand the “Customer Expectation Hierarchy.”

With regard to the last item, for those of you who remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Psych 101, this is the customer service version.

Working up from the base of the pyramid, the order of the Customer Expectation hierarchy is:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Availability
  3. Partnership
  4. Advice

What’s very interesting about this, according to Mr. Snow, is that the first two items (accuracy and availability) are called “Dissatisfiers,” meaning that you don’t get extra credit for delivering on those. They are expected by the customer and if you screw those up, you don’t get to climb any higher up the pyramid and your relationship with your client is likely in trouble.

But if you do get those consistently right, you now have earned the opportunity to create “Wow Opportunities” through true partnership and then by reaching the pinnacle and becoming a go-to resource for your customers to provide them with advice and counsel.  This is the secret sauce that creates long-term relationships with customers.

At Building Engines, we’ve always approached customer support and service from the perspective of availability, responsiveness, and resolution. And we have achieved “advice” status with many customers through the resources we make available to them and building strong relationships.  But, I know we can do much better.  As our growth has accelerated in the past several years, hearing Mr. Snow’s presentation reminded me that this is a good time to re-assess our processes and every interaction “through the lens of the customer” with the acknowledgement that there is always room for improvement.

I would encourage every property management team to do the same and honestly assess their tenant service program against the Customer Expectation Hierarchy as well as the other guiding principles in Mr. Snow’s excellent book.