How Trust and Communication Can Power Customer Service: 3 Questions With The Expert

When clients allow us to go deep, we can show them how communicating to establish trust benefits all facets of an organization, especially its core – customer service. That’s something I learned, in part, by listening to and reading perspective from who I believe is the nation’s top expert on customer service, Dennis Snow, who I met decades ago when I was a TV news producer in Orlando and in the years since, have seen him speak live and shared his videos with colleagues and clients.

Dennis “grew up” as a front line customer service worker, manager and then trainer at Walt Disney World and now brings “Lessons From The Mouse” to companies around the country. To help you better understand that crucial nexus between trust, communication and customer service, he answered a few questions to share here:

FRIEDMAN: You wrote recently that “communication quality and trust are inextricably linked.” What do you want communications professionals to understand how what they do impacts trust and, ultimately, customer experience?

SNOW: In a book I wrote about lessons learned from my 20-year career at Walt Disney World, Lessons From the Mouse, I have a chapter that’s titled, “Pay Attention to the Details – Everything Speaks.” What I mean is that every detail of the customer experience is saying something about the organization and its brand. For example, Disney’s brand is all about magic and creating happiness. Imagine visiting Walt Disney World and there’s trash all over the place, with dirty restrooms, sloppily attired employees, etc. There would be a disconnect between the desired brand image and the reality of the guest experience. Trust in the quality of the product would be eroded. Knowing this, Disney goes to great pains to make sure the parks are clean. In fact, it’s employee’s, or cast member’s job to keep the park clean. The outcome is that Disney guests trust that when they visit, the place will be immaculate. It seems like magic.

Because “everything speaks,” it’s important for communications professionals to understand clearly what their brand image is all about. What do you want customers to say about their experience with your organization? The key then is to make sure every detail from the user-friendliness of your website to the appearance of your facilities and every other element of the customer experience is aligned with that brand image. Everything speaks!

FRIEDMAN: Recently, you wrote about your experiences as a patient in a health care system. What’s the benefit now for health care entities to place a higher priority on communication?

SNOW: Yes, last fall I went through cancer treatments that included chemo and radiation therapy. You can imagine the emotions involved in hearing the diagnosis as well as going through the treatments. Couple the emotional element with the sheer volume of information thrown at you as a patient. My care team did a terrific job of communicating with each other as well as with my wife and me. Everyone member of the team knew what the other members were doing. They spoke to my wife and me in plain language so that we clearly understood what was happening. They managed our expectations by letting us know what was going to happen. They weren’t perfect, but they came pretty close.

Because of the quality of their communications, the health care entity had a patient who trusted his care team and was willing to follow the protocols of the treatment. I also will recommend them to anyone needing treatment. I’m a “raving fan.”

FRIEDMAN: Often times, we are called in to clients when a customer experience goes awry and then becomes news. From your perspective, what do companies do or don’t do that sends angry customers to the media to complain?

SNOW: No one gets it right 100% of the time. Even the best organizations sometimes screw up. And because of the technology customers have at their fingertips, a screw up can go viral pretty quickly.

If (when) your organizations screws up with a customer or does something that hits the news in a negative way, I recommend five steps to minimize the damage.

  1. Admit to the mistake quickly
  2. Accept responsibility
  3. Apologize
  4. Say what you’re going to do to fix the problem
  5. (If appropriate) Explain what you’re doing to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.

If more companies and employees would follow these steps, customers and companies would be better off. Everyone screws up and most of us can accept that as long as the organization handles the screw up well. Most of us are willing to give a second chance; maybe even a third. But if the situation is handled poorly, it may be one strike and you’re out.

For more on Dennis Snow, visit