Gators vs Eagles (not a sports reference)

Gators are almost synonymous with Florida.  The fact that a college mascot is named after them and that they have their own theme park should be a clue.  So, it’s probably no surprise that someone living here could get a little complacent, even nonchalant about the cold-blooded reptiles.  I realized this was me a few weeks ago.

When I visited Minnesota in April, I was talking to a friend about when Linda and I went to Alaska hoping to see bald eagles.  Eagles are much more common in Minnesota than Florida, and we joked that seeing eagles wouldn’t have been such a big deal for Minnesotans.  Then my friend said, “but you have alligators!”

In my mind I’m thinking, “so? Gators are everywhere”.  But then it dawned on me, “not if you live in Minnesota”.  So lesson learned – I want to see eagles, others may want to see gators.

Why is this a blog post? Because it made me think of how we can sometimes be so focused on what others CAN do, and by comparison, what we CAN’T do, that it really limits us – and we are doing it to ourselves!

In this industry, comparisons are commonly made to the “big boys” in terms of what they can deliver.  But how many of us think about what the “big boys” can learn from a smaller operation?  Maybe not terms of the hardware, but certainly in terms of the heart.

Being a student of the service industry, I am constantly watching for companies that “do it right”.  And recently, I have been more impressed with many of the smaller, even ‘mom & pop’ operations than I have been with some of the “big boys”.  I think it comes down to the environment that is created for the employees… try as they might, it seems inevitable that somewhere along the way, some (certainly not all) employees at larger companies start to feel like a number, and it’s a downward spiral from there.  There could be a thousand reasons for this, but I think one of the main causes is when employees don’t feel connected to what the company does, nor do they see how their behaviors impact the companies results.

On the other side of the coin, smaller operators could be better at communicating with their employees about just how important they are to the operation.  This could be through direction communication or just the fact that in small companies, people wear many hats and therefore, ARE very important.  Sometimes it’s easier to see your value that way.

Here are a few other thoughts to help communicate value:

  • Listen – Nothing says “you are valued” than really listening to someone.  Put down the phone and remove all distractions, and just listen.
  • Tie their behaviors to company values – Every company has a set of values or guiding principles, yet how many people on the front line really know how they impact those values.  Make it part of your coaching and feedback.
  • Acknowledge ideas and achievement – Few things feel better than when someone you respect gives you credit for an idea or accomplishment to others in their peer group.  “It was Ryan’s idea to change the queue, and it’s working out great!”

So, next time you (or someone you know) get’s hung up on what you can’t do based on budget or whatever, remember these points about communicating value – they don’t cost a dime.

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller can solve a Rubik’s cube in 37 seconds, provided that you don’t mind the colors being mixed up.

Lessons from Colombia (and even before!)

As some of you know, I recently had the very good fortune of traveling to Medellin, Colombia to do a presentation for the Colombian Association of Amusement Parks.  It probably goes without saying that I learned a thing or two while there… like about how gracious and polite the people are, how beautiful the country is, and what a lifesaver Google Translate is. All of these are true, but that’s not what I want to talk about here.  Instead, I would like to share something that I learned while I was getting ready for my trip. (For a few pictures from the trip, click here).

Medellin, Colombia

My presentation was titled “Beyond the Smile, Building a Winning Customer Service Culture.”  For reference, I did some research on, as they have built a reputation for great customer service, and it all starts with their culture.  I wanted to see if there were things that they were doing that we could adopt in the theme park business – and there were.  I started with the Zappos Family Core Values, which are listed below.

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

Here’s what I found to be tremendously interesting about these values, especially when they are lined up against some of the things we typically associate with customer service.  I would say that 7, maybe 8 of the values fall under one heading – teamwork.  Maybe some have more of an indirect impact on teamwork, but even that is important.

I found this fascinating because I think sometimes the relationship we have with others is often overlooked in the pursuit of customer service.  Sure we think about how the employee relates to the guest, but how about how the employees relate to each other? But of course it makes sense… everything, and I do mean everything, works better when people openly communicate, respect each other, feel like they can be themselves, and have the confidence that they can tackle any hurdle that is put in front of them. Together.

Once I realized this, I made sure this was a key point in my presentation.  I often say that there is no magic pill, no secret sauce, no “one thing” that will improve customer service or your ability to lead others. This may be as close as we get.

Focus on better teamwork, and other successes (including better customer service) will follow.

Thanks for reading!

Sobre el autor: Matt Heller escribió esto en el Traductor de Google para ver si se trataría de traducir de nuevo. ¿Lo hiciste?