Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What's Your Magic?

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar where Jon Cook, CEO of VML — a very successful advertising agency — was being interviewed. During the interview, he mentioned something from his internship at Disney World that showed how a simple concept can turn ordinary support efforts into Winning Support.

At Disney properties, Cast Members are empowered to sprinkle "Pixie Dust" whenever they can. If you recall from watching "Peter Pan", Tinkerbell sprinkles Pixie Dust on Wendy, John, and Michael to help them fly. In the tangible world of Disney properties, Pixie Dust takes the form of random acts of extra-special customer care. Disney Guests already have a sky-high expectation about how much fun they are going to have; the addition of Pixie Dust allows Disney Cast Members to meet — and then exceed — those baseline expectations, high as they may already be. In essence, it becomes a way to treat an ordinary interaction with a guest into one that borders on the magical.

In the interview, Jon provided one specific example of a Pixie Dust moment. He mentioned that one of the most common questions he was asked was, "What time does the three o'clock parade start?"

From his viewpoint, this was the perfect time to sprinkle Pixie Dust.

Let's unwrap this simple little exchange and examine it from the viewpoint of the guest and from that of the Cast Member.

It is a typically hot Florida day, and the air is stiflingly muggy, with very little in the way of a breeze. A harried mom and dad are struggling to keep up with their little girls who are dressed as their favorite Princesses. The girls' faces are flushed from the heat, and Mom and Dad are sweating, both of them with a look of pure frustration as they take in the crowd of people and the long lines. You can see them calculating how much it is costing them to stand in yet another line.

They are hoping that waiting for the parade to start will give them a little bit of relief. In exasperation, Dad turns to the nearest Cast Member and asks what time the three o'clock parade starts.

For the Cast Member, simply answering "Uh ... the three o'clock parade passes by here at 3:15" would have answered the question that was asked. But, it also presents an opportunity to magically transform the entire experience from one of frustration to one of excitement and joy.

Let's watch the magic of the Pixie Dust.

In front of the Cast Member are a pair of hot, tired, and bedraggled parents holding on to a squirming Snow White and Elsa, each of whom wants to go in separate directions. All of them need a cool drink and a lot of shade.

The Cast Member knows that the three o'clock parade starts at 3:00 PM in Frontierland, but won't get near this particular spot until 15 minutes after that. The Cast Member sees the hot, flushed faces, and then bends down to the level of the little girls: "I am so glad you are here today. Do you want to see Olaf and Snow White up close?"

The little girls stand transfixed, eyes wide in anticipation, and nod.

The Cast Member says, "I thought so. Well, let me show you where they are going to be."

He leads them to a cool, shaded area on the other side of the street, knowing that Olaf would be walking on right there, and that Snow White would be just a few floats behind. The Cast Member turns to Mom and Dad and suggests they get to this spot 30 minutes early, and that Mom could hold the spot while Dad goes over there to get some cold drinks.

Note that what the Cast Member said didn't take that much effort. In fact, the knowledge that the Cast Member needed to have wasn't much beyond simply showing up at his or her post and being observant. Instead, the magic was in reading the situation and interpreting it in a way that would provide maximum benefit to the guests. You could even say the majority of what the Cast Member addressed were the questions that were not asked.

All of us, no matter where we work or what we do, have some form of magic that can turn ordinary support into Winning Support. Perhaps you have found a different vendor for your client which will help them save a significant amount of money. Or, you might have developed an application that will help reduce the cost and burden on your client's system administration personnel, making their lives a little bit easier.

I know of one support engineer whose personal magic is that he tries to look ahead for his client, to find out the things they need to know, and to keep them informed before they are aware they have a need. A few months ago, when the WannaCry malware was spreading across the world, he told me he triple-checked that the malware vector had been blocked on the client's servers a month before and that there was no indication of any problems with the servers. Then, he sent his client's administrative team an email telling them their servers were safe. The members of the administrative team had heard about the spreading malware on the news before they got into the office, and when they sat down to send him an email asking if everything was OK, they were pleasantly surprised to see the assurance was already in their Inboxes.

It was a small effort on my friend's part, but it was a huge relief for his client because it was one less thing they had worry about. In short, they thought it was magic.

Which brings me back to Jon Cook.

My first interaction with him was on a hot Sunday afternoon at a ballpark. I was wearing dark shades and a soaked, pirate-style bandanna over my head to keep off the sun. I introduced myself to him as we were both helping ourselves to hotdogs and hamburgers, and we shook hands over the ketchup and mustard.

Even though I only wear a bandanna and shades when I am out in the sun, every time I have seen him since then, he has greeted me by name! It doesn't matter where we run into each other, he always greets me with a smile and a, "Hey, Bob ... how's it going?"

It turns out that some of Jon's magic is remembering peoples' names and faces, even years down the road.

I'm not sure how it makes others feel, but for me, Jon's magic inspires me to push just a little bit harder to spread my own magic with my clients.

Take time to reflect on the simple things you can do to make your support experiences magical. Take an honest look at the last few interactions you have had with your clients. Is there something you could have done just a tiny bit differently that would have transformed the experience? Can you tweak your style, your delivery, your processes just a little to make your clients' lives better?

You might be surprised about the great rewards that come from expending just a small amount of effort in your day-to-day routine. For starters, you'll be on the way to Winning Support!

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