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This episode is about Lee Cockerell, former manager of 40,000+ cast members at Walt Disney World Resort, and his experience delivering consistently excellent customer service.

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Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Lesson Nugget: If your company is not executing, your business will not grow. Thus, you have to set aside time to inspect your operations.
  • Lesson Nugget: Inspecting the operations of your business will ensure things are being done correctly and give you a clearer picture of what your customers see.
  • Lesson Nugget: Employees value appreciation, recognition, and encouragement as a reward. These rewards don't hurt your bottom line.

-So now in this business coaching episode for customer service training, if I have a gas station, or I have some small business, you're saying that you might recommend just going in there and shopping, like you're a customer.

-Yeah. And if they're going to know you, send your neighbor in, and say, hey, tell me how it went. Did they come out and clean your windshield, or not?

-And what percentage of your time do you recommend? Say I have a business, and I have seven or eight employees. Business coaching question: What percentage of my time should I spend inspecting ?

-I think inspecting, if you're in a small business, you're just probably around your people all the time.


-You go to Disney. As big as we are, we finally mandated that the assistant managers and the managers had to be in the operation with the customers and with the cast members 80% of the day. So eight, nine hours a day, they had to be there. And they said, we can't do that. We've got too much administrative work. We've got to be in the office.


-So we added administrative help to them so they could be out in there.

-What would you say to the business owners that you work with? I work with a lot. I see them all the time that say, I'm so busy doing this, I don't have time to follow up on my people. So the people have no accountability. What would you say to somebody whose business model's built upon not following up on their people?

-Business coaching truth: I would say that you probably ought to rethink how you're organized. Maybe do you need to add one more person. Maybe you need to rethink where you're spending your time, because if you're not executing well, your business is not going to grow downstream, no matter what you're doing. If you can't execute, you're going to slowly-- I was talking my dry cleaning guy the other day. We were talking about, I wonder why people leave businesses.


-And I said, I've been coming here for 20 years with my clothes to you. And I said, you even screw up a lot. You lose a shirt every now and then, but you pay me for it.


-And you're really a nice guy, and I enjoy you. I said, I don't want to walk away. I can put up with this. As long as people treat me respectfully or nice, you always take care of it when you screw up.


-And he's always there personally. Although sometimes, I forget to fold my shirts when I travel, I want them folded. Lee, just wait a minute. Here, buy me a coffee. Come back in five. I'm going to fold it myself.

-Yeah. Now, let me ask. Final two business coaching questions here. What rewards and penalties would you recommend? What role would you recommend that every business has, as it relates to rewards and penalties? Does there need to be a reward and penalty in place in every business?

-Business coaching lesson: Well, I think every owner ought to understand that the biggest reward is appreciation, recognition, and encouragement. Give it a little of that. It doesn't cost a dime.


-Recognition and encouragement. It's in my book. It's called "ARE." I caught it the fuel that drives performance-- appreciation, recognition, encouragement. We all want it.


-We don't all get it. We all have the full tank every morning. It's like a fuel. I can give you some, and then I have some for Priscilla when she comes home.


-You never run out. It's renewable. If I do it, you learn to do it. Some people, when you give them appreciation, recognition, encouragement, they soar.


-They stay with you. They quit stealing from you. Turnover goes down. And it is a fuel that is free. It costs nothing. And every day, you, and me, we miss opportunities to give this to people on the street, a homeless person. That would be nicer.

-So if I have an employee that is doing a great job, and I want to give them appreciation or reward, is that something where you just tell them publicly? Do you give them something? Do you give them a plaque?

-Always ask people, what is the best way for people to know they matter? Tell them. What is the best way for your wife to know you love her? Tell her.


-If you love her, don't keep it to yourself if you appreciate your-- so you might walk out. I walk in and say, Clay, I was thinking about you on the way work, and I'm just thinking how much I appreciate you. You do a great job. I hope you stay with me for another 15 years. You're the kind of person I need around here, and I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you. How do you think about that?


-And I'll tell you. You want to test it out because you're not good at it? Business coaching tip: You call up your parents. I tell everybody, call your parents. When your mother answers the phone, say, mom, get dad on the phone. I just wanted to call and tell you tonight how much I appreciate and love you two. I appreciate all the sacrifices you made for me in your life, and your mom will start crying, and your dad will say, what happened? Did you get fired today?

Watch more episodes on customer service training on Thrive15.com

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • Lesson Nugget: Creating a point system that acts as a universal standard for everyone further clarifies the expectations of the employee.
  • Lesson Nugget: By failing to enforce your company's values and rules you empower your employees to act however they wish.
  • Lesson Nugget: By giving the employees the power to financially take care of the customer without manager approval, they are promoting the idea that taking care of the customer is the most important thing they can do.
  • Lesson Nugget: Casting a vision for your employees and helping them realize the importance of their job will increase the quality of their work.



-Now, business coaching for the part that's not so fun is the penalty. So let's just say that I'm not showing up at work on time. So everyone comes in on-- what's the highway everyone comes in on the way to--

-Interstate 4.

-Interstate 4. And some people say traffic was crazy. And then some people say I've been here for ten minutes. I'm good. What do you say-- how do you deal with the person who shows up late? So let's say they show up late to work at Disney. How do you deal with it?

-Well, first of all, when they're hired, it's very clear to them what happens. Business coaching tip: At Disney, we have a point system. If you're late to work, you get a half a point. If you don't call and don't show up at all, you get three points. When you get 12, you're terminated.

-Bottom line. Let's repeat that again.

-No discretion.

-Let's repeat. So you get there late. You get what?

-A half a point.

-And you get there-- and it doesn't matter what the situation is?

-If you don't call and don't show up, three points.

-What are other ways--

-That last year they drop off and as you're accruing them.

-How many other points can I get? What other ways can I earn bad points?

-Most of it is attendance-related at Disney because those are hourly employees and being late. We don't do that for management, but it's a clear system. You might put a point system in for your kids--


If you come home late three times, you're not going to use the car anymore.

-At the end of the year, if I haven't used-- let's say, I only have two points all year.

-They drop off.

-If you got them in November, they drop off the next November.

-So the next year, I start with 12 again?

-Yeah, you start at 12. It's always dropping off. So if you got six so far this year and--

-What if someone gets crazy and talks back to their manager. Is it, like, 2 points?

-It depends how they do it. If they use profanity and get any aggression and physical, then they're terminated.

-OK, that's 12 points.

-And you're gone. We tell people if you're just a pain in their butt, you know, like you just give me a hard time all the time when you come in, but you do a good job for the customer? That's part of the game. That's the way life goes.

-What about if you're just someone who's insubordinate and refuses to make a hamburger the right way?

-Oh, you'll probably be terminated then.

CLAY CLARK: Terminated for that? OK. Now here's why I want to talk about this because this really does matter for a lot of small business owners. So if I show up late, I'm 10 minutes late, do you just write me up right there? You go ahead and have me sign the document--

LEE COCKERELL: Before you go home.

CLAY CLARK: Before you go home?

-But I talked to a guy at a hardware store this year and he said I've had this lady for 23 years. She comes to work late every day. 10, 15, 20 minutes. He says, my wife says I need to fire her. I said, she's right. I said, you know why she's late to work every day? It's not her. It's you. You let her. And his wife's standing there and says, yeah, see? I told you. And I said, by the way, she's setting a terrible example for the rest of your employees. You're not enforcing your own policy.

-I wish that-- there almost needs to be an online business coaching school devoted just to what you just said because it's just a brass tacks of discipline and management and--

-And I think if you start thinking about performance, you'll deal with it. If you think that's not good performance. So they're one person short on the floor for half an hour in the mornings when customers are coming in.

CLAY CLARK: Yeah. Well, final business coaching question I have for you as it relates to customer service. I know at Disney, it seems like the goal was always to wow customers. Still is to wow. And it seems like the goal of a lot of businesses is just to satisfy.

Can you maybe walk me through some business coaching for some of the details that made that wow experience? Because when I take my kids to Disneyland, I mean, we are wowed. What are some of the details that you put on that checklist to create that wow?

-I think we do a good job of preparing the employees, the cast members to how important a trip this is for families. This is one of the trips of a lifetime. They've saved their money for three years to come here. They're bringing their children here and they came here when they were children. And Disney's a magical experience and we promote magic.

And the magic really comes from the employees, comes from the cast. You're the ones who produce it. And so what happens to a guest who comes here, that is really drilled in to everybody. No matter what, we take care-- we go out of our way.

We see you across the parking lot looking at a map, we don't run away. We go to you. We get over there. If you're carrying your bags in and one of the engineers, he's just come from fixing a toilet, will help you carry your bags in.

This blows people away because they're going, "Wow." This only happens in Disney. Or you lost your pacifier. And there's two things can happen. Some places you go, they'll say the store's closed.

Other places like Disney, they'll go get the keys. There's two ways to do things. Every employee, every cast member at Disney has the authority to take care of you financially. So your daughter got her dress wet or wet her dress or something-- they have the authority to give you a new dress. They don't have to check with the manager.

We have a document we call "No Strings Attached." You just fill it out, sign it, tell them what it was, give it to the cashier, and they'll give you a new dre-- or your son drops his Mickey Mouse in the mud-- $30 item. I can give you another one. No, I don't have to check with anybody.

-How big does that latitude go?

-There's a limit on the amount but even then, you got to get the manager. But I would say we found out that about 90% of the problems were not financially more than $30, $40. But then one year, we decided that when there's a loss, like you lose a camera, it's missing from your room when you come back, and it's $1,000 or $800 camera.

We used to turn them over to Claims. You know how that works? I turn you over to Claims. You know how Claims treats you? Like you're a criminal. So we made a change and we said every front desk person has authority to settle a claim for $1,000, up to $1,000.


-Our cost went down that year.

-Wow. Because it makes it more simple.

-Right now it's done. Business coaching truth: Time you get into Claims, get lawyers involved, it gets higher and higher and higher, and then the people want more money.

-Then they're not happy with Disney.

-Instant authority.


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