PR Firms Can Learn A Lesson From The Mouse

Disney-World-Cinderellas-Castle-1Just about every company says that customer service is its #1 priority. But very few actually build a culture in which service becomes outstanding.

That’s the in-a-nutshell message of a compelling and entertaining speaker I had the privilege to hear last week. Customer service trainer Dennis Snow, a 20-year manager and executive at Walt Disney World, spoke at a seminar hosted by one of our clients and I was invited in to hear the presentation. For a sampling of what I heard, click here.

Snow, the author of the book”Lessons From the Mouse,” spoke of the fundamentals to successful customer service. One, in particular, resonated with me after these years of PR firm leadership. Everything you do, Snow said, as a business should be strategized while looking through the lens of the customer.

Ironically, the PR firm business has a long way to go in that department. For most of us running agencies, we need to think, would we tolerate what we, as an industry, do to our clients? Would we pay a professional services firm a fixed monthly fee, regardless of how much work they do for us? Would we really pay for photocopies, cell minutes, scans or faxes? (Yes, I’m almost ashamed to say, there are, in fact, firms that are charging clients for faxes). Would we really be expected to sign a contract right off a proposal with no room for discussion on terms or detailed conversation on objectives and scope of work? Would we tolerate paying for three people at a meeting with us, when only one is involved in strategy and the others are taking notes (and sucking up time)?

When we started Tanner Friedman, we made every effort to look at our client experience through the lens of our clients. As our business evolves, we try to stay in that position when making business decisions. Communicating with our clients, rather than imposing terms on them, tends to help. But, as an industry, the PR firm business is embarrassingly lacking in that area. We hear that from potential clients who have sworn off hiring any firm in the future, because of poor service they have experienced from just one firm in the past.

Another one of Snow’s messages is important for our profession. Can we make every customer happy every time? No, we can’t. But our overall focus should be on providing a level of service that, at the end of a project, makes the client look forward to the next project. As at Disney World, where they have you already thinking of your next visit there as you walk out the door, that should be our objective, rather than nickel and dimeing our way to client dissatisfaction.