Teri Yanovitch, Customer Service Keynote Speaker, Author
A former Disney Institute speaker, regional trainer for the Hertz Corporation, and vice president with Philip Crosby Associates (TQM), Teri Yanovitch has combined her expertise and background to develop a proven process for creating and sustaining a culture of world-class service.
As a customer service expert, Teri works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. Her passion is to help organizations create and manage outstanding customer experiences to build a strong brand and sustain a culture of service excellence.
AUTOMATED EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:01] You're listening to Scaling Up Services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
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[00:00:57] Welcome, everyone. This is Scaling Up Services. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host. And our guest today is Teri Yanovitch, and she is a customer service expert. She's a speaker, a trainer. She's also an author, co-author of Unleashing Excellence The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service. So we can talk a little bit about that. We're going to talk about her background. We're going to talk about customer service and how every company can be better at being a better customer service. Experts with that. Terry, welcome to the program. Thank you. Thank you for having me. So what do we start about with learning a little bit more about you, your background professionally? What were you doing before you got into the focus of customer service, being a customer service trainer, expert, author? What was the background?
[00:01:38] Well, actually, I'm one of the few people that you'll meet who actually grew up in Orlando, Florida, before Disney.
[00:01:46] We were just a little cow town at orange groves.
[00:01:51] And then Disney came and everything changed.
[00:01:54] And I was about 17 years old and went to apply for a job at the Magic Kingdom and sounded really fun. And so I actually got my first start in customer service as I was going through college and working for Walt Disney World during those college breaks of Easter summer and Christmas vacation. Yeah. Wow. And so as a great learning experience, which I carried with me when I moved to Seattle, Washington, following graduation and began my career with the Hertz Corporation, my first professional job as a manager at the Seattle Airport.
[00:02:32] And what I learned there is that a car is a car is a car.
[00:02:37] Yeah, it was national budget or Hertz. The product is basically the same. Yeah, but the experience is the differentiator.
[00:02:46] And so Hertz always worked very hard at being quicker, faster, better than everybody else.
[00:02:50] So I took that learning experience and it does rain a lot in Seattle, much more than Florida. So I moved back to Florida.
[00:02:59] The regional trainer with Hertz and went up and down the East Coast training all the managers and rental agents in the customer experience. I left there and went to work after five years with the fellow by the name of Philip Crosby, and he was a guru in quality management and believe that quality that if you don't have quality in your product or service that you're offering, then nothing else really matters, and that it's important for every business to consistently deliver on the promise of that quality.
[00:03:32] And so I worked with him for the next decade. And then he sold the company and I went back to Disney and became a speaker at the Disney Institute for the next eight years.
[00:03:43] So combining all of that experience is really how I got into customer service, because I took what I learned from Philip Crosby and what I learned from Hertz and Disney and combined it into how do you create a culture of service excellence? How do you become the next Nordstrom's? How do you become the next American Express? How do you take your business to that next level and become a Disney World? So it's really about how to create a culture. And it starts what I learned is with quality that you can smile real nice and give a lot of great eye contact. But if you don't deliver what you promise, then none of that matters now. So first, make sure that you can deliver what you promise and then surround it with that wow experience. And you've got an unbeatable organization. Bigger, small than matter. Yeah.
[00:04:33] Yeah. A couple of questions too. Given that you have such kind of but not a long experience necessarily, but this this historical experience with Disney, I mean has Disney always been because we use it as a case study all the time now in terms of customer service and experience and experience design and how has it always been that way? You know, when you when you were 17 and working there on Easter break, I mean, have they always had that kind of focus and that kind of dedication to experience in the organization?
[00:05:03] Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's what makes them so great, is because it never wavers. It's never let's let our hair down and relax a little bit. It's always paying attention to the details. Always looking for ways to exceed expectations. And that's ingrained into you. From the moment that you go for the end of the original interview, yeah, fascinating.
[00:05:25] Let's talk about quality a little bit because I think the quality came out of the lean, agile kind of background and world. And we're always looking at quality, we're always looking at delivering customer value, I guess. Talk to us a little bit about the definition of quality. What how do you define quality and what is quality and what is not quality? I guess in general or in the cases that you've been using it?
[00:05:47] Well, in the cases that I've been using it, and it actually goes back to Phil Crosby's definition of quality, and that is conformance to requirements that as long as you identify with the customer, what the requirements are, either in terms of specifications or in terms of time and budget, that as long as you conform to those requirements that have been agreed to, then you've done quality work. And that is a beautiful definition because it takes the subjective ness out of it.
[00:06:22] It's no longer good quality, bad quality, high quality, low quality. It's did you conform to the requirements or did you not? And comes a binary and that makes it easy on everyone.
[00:06:33] Well, I think the interesting thing that you said there and I'm kind of curious how, you know, how much this becomes kind of a factor for you is based on what the customer wants, I guess.
[00:06:42] How do you kind of get from the customer what they define as quality and how is that sometimes different from what the people trying to deliver might define as quality? And how do you kind of work with potential differences between those things?
[00:06:57] Oh, that's an excellent question.
[00:06:59] And the way that I approach it is that in regards to the product or the service that you're delivering, you've got to talk to the customer and listen to the customer and understand what you are agreeing to in regards to that product or service. So if I'm delivering, for example, chick fillet, I mean, it's going to be you know, they're going to they've obviously done market surveys and tested their products. And you know that when you places a certain order for Chick fil A sandwich, what what will be the requirements on that sandwich? So so the conformance to requirements is in regards to the actual product, or maybe it's even a service that you're delivering, such as a law firm and equipments and the contracts that you're promising you'll deliver.
[00:07:53] The difference between that and the experience is the experience you want to exceed the expectations.
[00:08:02] So while I may want to give you this Chick fil A sandwich that conforms to the requirements of what we've agreed to or and you've agreed to it by the fact that you go there. Yeah. In that case of such a big organization.
[00:08:18] But the experiences now where you can exceed those expectations and how they deliver that Chick fil A sandwich, you know, you asked for extra sauce and rather than begrudgingly handing it over to you, it's. Oh, that's my pleasure. Having someone, you know, to help speed up the line when you first go through their drive through so that you get a greeting plus it makes it a quicker transaction. So the quality is talking to the customer, listening to the customer, serving the customers, finding out, all right, what can we deliver that we know we can deliver consistently now, not making a promise that we know knowingly will disappoint them, but identifying those requirements and and then exceeding the expectations in the way in which we deliver it, then how to win case.
[00:09:10] I run into a lot or I see a lot of companies kind of struggling with is, you know, they're serving lots of different types of customers.
[00:09:16] And, you know, in these conversations of, well, what is what would a customer what does the customer define as quality or what do they want? And how do we make that an objective kind of measure that they're because they're dealing with so many different types of customers that they have a really hard time coming up with a single, well articulated definition of quality around that, because they have, you know, some some people you know, some people want it in 24 hours. Some people want it in 48 hours. Some people want it delivered by email. Some people want it in a repository. You know, like how do you deal with situations where a client hasn't really narrowed their customer down or is dealing with a situation where the needs are kind of scattered or or are across a wide range of parameters?
[00:10:01] Well, then you have to be the one to define the output as Dutch going to be willing to deliver. I mean, some things are going to be cost prohibitive. But like I just made an order on Amazon earlier this morning and they let me define how I wanted the shipping to be and then based upon that. I won. You know it. Yeah. Then I'm gonna have to pay extra in order to do that. Or do I want to wait two days and then I'll be free. So. So it's if the customer is not defining it, then you've got to define what you can do and still make a profit.
[00:10:37] Yeah. To say it sounds like a toe defining. That's one way or another. And to the extent that there is a customer wants options as giving them options and with ever or with any corresponding pricing change, it is that you want to make with that. I think that makes sense. So talk to us about, you know, once a once I've defined this, how do I actually make sure that I'm able to deliver on that? I mean, what are the. What's the process I need to put in place either operationally, culturally, training wise? I mean, how do I how do I get my organization to actually deliver against that?
[00:11:08] Well, you start at the end because the end is really the beginning. So once you've defined the requirements on that product or service that you're going to deliver, that you're going to make that promise that you're going to let did deliver. Then you back into the process and define. So what facilities and equipment am I going to need in order to be able to do this? What training and knowledge do I need to give my employees so that they can make or deliver this? What procedures need to be in place so that we all know exactly what we're all doing and then having a performance standard of how often do we want to follow all of these? You know, if it's the beginning of the month, we're gonna make sure that we follow and make sure we've always got these elements in place. But now it's the end of the month and we've got a screen you. So we're going to let things go. So that performance standard becomes very important. And a lot of times are here. Companies talk about, well, you know, we did great. You know, 90 percent of the time we've got the customer, what they wanted and what we promised. But you know, that 2 percent that didn't that 2 percent could be a lot of customers and that 2 percent is the one that's gonna be out there talking negatively and posting this thing on Twitter.
[00:12:28] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:12:29] So the attitude has to be we're going to conform to these required once we've defined the output and the requirements on that output and we've defined what will be the process that will get us there consistently every time that we have to have the attitude that 100 percent conformance to following that process so that we know that we're going to produce that output every time.
[00:12:51] Yeah. So and what are the procedures like as you work with companies? Where do you see companies lacking in kind of attention to procedures or attention to detail around procedures that that ends up impacting their customer service kind of capability or their standards most dramatically?
[00:13:08] It's typically that attitude of that's close enough that everybody, you know, starts to rest on their laurels after a while and or some something happens and they they let it go with, well, that's close enough attitude. And the problem with that is, you know, even if each one of us have a ninety nine percent attitude that we're going to deliver or do the procedures and the process ninety nine times ninety nine times 99 times 99 comes out around 84 percent. So you've got a huge opportunity for error.
[00:13:45] And by not consistently focusing that, it's not acceptable to do anything less than 100 percent conformance.
[00:13:55] So is this is that is that last 1 percent? Is it about details in the procedure? Is it about leadership? Is it about culture? Is it about process? I mean, what's the how do you get that last that last one percent? Because I get it that that 1 percent across an organization can compound and actually be a significant percentage. But it's also I mean, I can imagine it's hard it's hard to get to that last one percent. How do you like how do you do that as a company?
[00:14:19] Well, that's a culture that that's a culture and that's a leadership, because the leader really is going to set the tone. You know, when we see the leader saying, OK, it's all right for that shipment to go out, even though we know that, you know, it's missing or I was working with a trucking company and their approach was that or their promise to the clients was that they it was a liquid transport trucking company that they would always clean out before each changeover in product.
[00:14:50] And one time they knew that they had not done the clean out, but it was a very similar liquid product that they were going to be delivering. And it really wouldn't have affected because it was so, so similar. The full the full clean up anyway. And. But the president of the company called the client and said, you know what? We did not follow our procedure exactly as promised.
[00:15:15] And so, therefore, we're gonna eat this one to you, you know, and we're going to.
[00:15:20] Deliver for you and we'll make sure that it's all on time and, you know, right now.
[00:15:25] So, you know, he didn't have to do that because the client might not actually have known in the end. But it was a a huge message to everybody in the organization is, oh, you know, we don't mess around that. We're gonna do it the way we promise that we're going to do it every time. So that 1 percent really comes back down to culture leadership.
[00:15:46] Yeah, yeah. It's a good example. And I talk a lot about culture and core values with clients. And we're always looking for stories, rose looking for the be the stories that demonstrate the living of core values or in this case, not living core values and how it impacts the organization. And I think that it's a it's a core part of being able to talk about these kind of values, whether they're customer service or general is having these stories behind it. So I'd like that one, because it is a it's a great demonstration of someone really living it. What else goes into value? I mean, as you kind of articulate these customer service values, how else do you communicate them? How do you how do you make sure that they're alive and, you know, in the kind of day to day discussion and actions of the company?
[00:16:27] Well, the leadership has to go round and talk about them. And that was the wonderful thing about Walt. And while while I was not there when Walt was there, he he. That was his style of making sure that everybody understood his commitment to quality.
[00:16:48] And the story that I've loved that got passed down, actually.
[00:16:53] Walt took a ride on the jungle cruise.
[00:16:57] And this was a ride that goes round. It's about seven minutes long and it goes through this river and there's alligators and crocodiles and all. And he knew that the ride was supposed to last for about eight minutes. And so when he got off the ride, he went back to the supervisor of the area and he said, hey, I just just got off that ride and it only took me five minutes. He said, you know, this is like a movie and you're cutting out pieces of the film when you speed through it. And I don't care that we have thousands of guests waiting in line.
[00:17:32] He said the ride should be eight minutes. I'm going to give you three days to get it fixed. So the supervisor then went back and talked to the employees. The cast members all made sure, you know, that they knew exactly that they were supposed to follow all the protocol. Well, Walt came back. Sure enough, three days later to his promise. And he wrote not only the first vote, but the second book.
[00:17:56] But the third consistency.
[00:18:00] Or working, you know, at that shift about, you know, six of them.
[00:18:05] And afterwards, he went back to the supervisor and patted me on the shoulder and said, hey, good job. And, you know, the supervisor then turned to one of the other cast members and he said, you know, I knew that Walt would be back. And so I made sure that I stacked my best skippers in the beginning. But he said I had no idea that he was right.
[00:18:26] But that story actually got told to me by Dick Newness, who was president of Walt Disney Attractions when I was there. So.
[00:18:34] So Walt had communicated it to Dick, you know, through those observing while doing this. And then Dick was communicating it to me. And I am sure that the president, Walt Disney World, is communicating it.
[00:18:45] That same story to the cast members today. And that's what it takes is, as you said, the storytelling has a big impact. And observing leaders as they are, as Walt would call it, NWA management by wandering around. No one walked away.
[00:19:02] I wonder. Yeah, a point A to point B, but you wander around as a leader and you listen to your employees and you share stories.
[00:19:12] And I have many of the stories that, you know, that would be told would exemplify that commitment to attention, to detail and seating expectations.
[00:19:23] Tom Cruise on the on the measurement side.
[00:19:24] So, you know, Walt going in and writing the writing the vote and using a stopwatch or looking at his watch, they're going to see how long he was taking his eye. How else do companies, rivals, can companies measure the level of customer service that they're delivering? I mean, what are what are some strategies you.
[00:19:41] Because this can often be hard. I mean, you can you know, it can be difficult to actually get that insight. How do you help companies or how do you advise companies in terms of setting up the systems to actually check to see whether or not these things are being implemented correctly or implemented to specification?
[00:19:58] Well, in a way, I almost think companies are going overboard with it.
[00:20:01] I didn't think I'd get off any phone call these days. Interesting. Hopefully with any kind of a business, almost with them not asking me to rate, how was my interaction with that representative and would I please stay on the line and answer a few quick questions? I know in the past three days I've actually really noticed that almost every business I've called has been doing that. So I think companies are working hard at trying to get that customer measurement. The one that I find that is lacking that I believe would be a big help to organizations is that internal customer service. So talk more about that. Yeah.
[00:20:43] Well, there is a ripple effect between internal customer service to external customer service and internally within the organization where all customers and suppliers to each other from one department to another department. You know, marketing to operations, operations to shipping, shipping to billing. I mean. And so. So it's that internal service. And if one department is perhaps sitting on information or, you know, taking your time or not following through or a lack of responsiveness, that's customer service internally. And that ends up holding up the whole process depending upon where in the process that department or individual falls. So I have found several of the clients recently that I've been working with that have started to measure that internal customer service so that they can try to improve it to provide a more seamless operation internally, which is ultimately going to affect them better delivery of exemplary service to their customers. Yes. You know, the customer doesn't care internally. All the in-fighting or the problems internally that you have. All they care is did you deliver what you promised on time and in the way that you promised. But as an organization, it makes everybody a lot happier and a lot more satisfied with their jobs and enjoying their work if they know that we're part of a team and we're all working together. And sometimes internal customer service is not that someone just didn't want to be timely with their response or helpful, but they have a obstacle that's getting in their way, whether it's a lack of accurate information gathering or computer didn't work or, you know, they don't have the tools available or we don't have the phone system that's adequate for our communications.
[00:22:44] And so the attitude of management and leadership has to be what's going wrong in the process and what can we do to try to correct it versus just immediately blaming it on a person?
[00:22:56] Yeah, it's sad that I hadn't really kind of considered or thought of, you know, internal customer service and how that kind of drives external. And I totally get it.
[00:23:05] I mean, if I keep hearing from the billing department or, you know, getting another message from the billing department that an invoice hasn't been paid, when when you have paid it, you gave the check to a different department. They just haven't turned it over yet or something. You know that those kind of things are incredibly frustrating and not and customers don't care. If you had an internal issue where some communication didn't happen, that's not an excuse for bad external customer service. So I like that idea of measuring that. I'd like the idea of the kind of leaders role or leadership job is kind of making sure that those internal processes are working well. And if not, what are they need to do to from a system point of view, improve it? Now, you know, not just blame people, but actually look at the process that's in place. And what do we what do we do to remove obstacles and challenges?
[00:23:48] Tell us more about the book in terms of unleashing excellence. What else do you cover?
[00:23:52] What are there things, takeaways that people can get from for meeting and unleashing excellence actually is a guidebook to leaders who are very serious about wanting to create this culture of delivering excellent service every time. And so it talks about how to create a service philosophy, which is really identifying what is the higher purpose for each employee. So that, you know, for example, at Walt Disney World, you know, I was 17 and, you know, many of the jobs that young people take.
[00:24:31] Well, at any age, actually. But, you know, it can be it's from sweeping the streets to working in a gift shop to flipping hamburgers. And one of the kiosks working as a housekeeper. I mean, same kinds of jobs that you would have out in your little town and so forth. But the difference in Disney is they tell you, OK, here's the job task that you are being assigned to do. But that's just your task, which you're really here to do everyday is to create happiness. And that's the purpose. And so look for opportunities all day long while you're doing your job task to create happiness, to build that relationship with the guest. And it really changes the mindset then, because, you know, if I'm a custodial sweeping the streets, I can keep my head down and. SWEEP Main Street, my little area, or if I'm creating happiness, though, and I see a family who mom is having, you know, to give dad her purse to hold so that she can take the whole family's picture and she's never in the picture, I can say to them, hey, would you like me to take the photo of the whole family? And of course, that's going to make them happy.
[00:25:44] And that wouldn't happen if everybody was just believing that their job task was what they did and what they do. So the book shares how how do you create that service philosophy for you? How do you find that higher purpose for your employees? And then the key is how do we communicate that? So it goes into seven leadership actions. Everything from the interview process where you can communicate upfront that service excellence is how we do things, giving amazing customer service. And here's your higher purpose. The measurement of it, how do you measure this and how do we remove those obstacles that get in the way of delivering it? And how do we give recognition to employees who exhibit and work very hard at making this service philosophy and this higher purpose? The meaning of what they do everyday in their job so we can create some internal role models for everyone. And then how do we hold people accountable so that it becomes this is a way of life for us. And this is just how we do things here. This is our art, our culture. So it's really a book that is a structured approach on how to create a culture of ultimate customer service.
[00:26:59] That's great. And so if people want to find out more about the book, more about you, the work that you do. What's the best place to get that information? My Web site has just about everything on it.
[00:27:10] And that is www.retainloyalcustomers.com
[00:27:17] All right. I will make sure that that that you are all is in the show now so people can click through and get that. Terry, this has been a pleasure. I've enjoyed the conversation. I love the experience and the history you've had with Disney and the other organizations.
[00:27:31] I love the definition of quality. I think those are great takeaways for folks here. This has really been a pleasure. I appreciate you taking the time.
[00:27:37] Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure talking with you, Bruce.
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