When engineering a culture of service excellence, demonstrate the message

Engineering firms need to “inculturate” service excellence into their organizations by demonstrating important values through vision, involvement, and accountability, according to Dennis Snow, consultant and 20-year employee of Walt Disney Co. at the A3 Business Forum.

By Mark T. Hoske February 5, 2016

Engineering firms need to instill service excellence in existing and prospective team members by living important values, according to Dennis Snow, consultant and 20-year employee of Walt Disney Co. at the A3 Business Forum. Snow said that demonstrating the company’s vision, engaging the minds of team members through involvement, and making everyone accountable for expectations are ways to create and expand a culture of service excellence at engineering-related companies.

Snow admitted to making up words to emphasize the point, explaining the need to "inculturate" service excellence into their organizations by demonstrating important values. It doesn’t matter how much anyone tells a candidate how much people matter in the organization, Snow said, if that candidate doesn’t feel welcomed, interested, and positively challenged during the interview process.

A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, is the umbrella organization for the AIA, Advancing Vision, ImagingMotion Control and Motor Association (MCMA), and the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). A3 holds an annual meeting Feb. 3-5, this year, in Orlando, Fla.

Here are other "Lessons from the Mouse" from Snow, of Snow and Associates Inc.

Live the message

Whether it’s the 3 p.m. parade in a Disney theme park or your next big engineering project, the magic that goes into any experience is because of the employees involved. How can 60,000 people get it right most of the time? To "inculturate" service excellence means living the important values of the company, every minute of every day from the top down in the organization in everything team members do, as second nature.

You know behaviors are ingrained and working when you ask an employee: "How does that happen?" and the reply is something like: "I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s just what we do."

What should customers say?

What do you want customers to say about their experience with your company? For Disney, Snow said, three key points are, "It was magical, the attention to every detail, and they made us feel special." Disney knows if they do that, people will return and tell others about the positive experience.

The average guest at Disney will carry a piece of trash 27 ft before dropping it. The average distance between trashcans is 26 ft, and everyone, top to bottom, picks up trash (Snow showed a photo of Walt Disney doing so).

Interviewing and selection

To keep and retain the best talent, ensure that the talent isn’t ignored when hiring. Most people interviewing focus on skills and knowledge and don’t observe talent (the hardest thing to teach) during the interview. If a position requires someone to be friendly, for instance, don’t hire someone who’s grumpy during the interview.

Study your best people. Who would you like to clone? Learn what makes them tick and look for those attributes to be demonstrated during interviews. Training and positive communication need to happen through a career. Ensure the team member is:

  1. Proud of the organization. I didn’t know Walt Disney had to take second mortgage on his house to finish his first film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  2. Understands the true product offered. Disney creates happiness. Product is not the hamburger; it’s the happiness the hamburger creates.
  3. Understands what’s expected. When employees see others doing what is needed, that’s worth much more than manuals or training. The vision should always be there, alive. For example, a hospital plays a few measures of "Brahms Lullaby" softly over the speakers when a baby is born to remind everyone that "A miracle just happened."

He also suggested having a quarterly meeting to air out the barriers to excellence and then doing something about overcoming them. 

Hold people accountable

Accountability is often the reason things don’t happen. I didn’t say this and couldn’t find out who did, but it’s true: Intolerable service exists because intolerable service is tolerated.

Never let a coaching moment go, but coach in private, something like: "Here’s what we’re trying to create. Here’s what I saw and what happened as a result." This is better than any orientation. Likewise, never let the recognition moment go. People appreciate appreciation and know that it’s about the emotion that goes with it, not about the prize. Ensure people know why they’re recognized.

Snow quoted Tom Peters while showing a photo of Walt Disney picking up trash: "The problem isn’t that your people don’t know what you’re doing. It’s that they do know what you’re doing."

Snow added: "People know what you value by what you do."

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

ONLINE extra

For more advice from Snow, see a related article linked below about improving tech companies improving the customer experience.