The Power of Great People
Several recent blogs referenced how great people can promote superb experiences, and contribute to business results. This post serves to hammer that point a bit harder.
As we sweat through this heat wave in Ontario (though it is nice really), my mind wanders to… alpine skiing. Yep, this is a true love, so it crosses my subconscious quite frequently. I have had the good fortune to experience many ski resorts and so-called ‘hills’. I genuinely enjoy them all to varying degrees. Two in particular have had considerable success; yet, they offer very different customer experiences.
Here are some examples that zero in on the lifties, and the lifty qualities that make a real difference between a great customer experience and a not so great one (or even bad or ugly). Lifties are the staff that serve the lift lines to get people onto the slopes and off again.
This job is not for everyone. The pay is generally low. It can be tedious and boring. Time can stand still. It is often quite cold and miserable. They must stand around a lot in all of winter’s elements. The lifts are prone to breakdowns, which leads to longer lines for patrons and grumpy moods. Dealing with the public is never easy.
Consider a few examples of lifties at two ski resorts we will call A and B below.
Lifties at A are energetic and happy people who are well trained to treat visitors with respect, courtesy and considerable care. They excel at making conversation.
Lifties at B are generally surly and rarely even say hello. You can tell that most of them would prefer to be elsewhere.
Lifties at A always smile and try to make eye contact with you, even when it is challenging to see your eyes behind goggles.
Lifties at B will make eye contact with you IF they happen to recognize you AND they are not talking to another lifty.
Lifties at A help young children get on the lift and off again, putting themselves in a position near the child to lend a hand, literally. And they don’t speak down to the kids; they get down to their level to communicate with them. This assistance is needed because ski instructors sometimes need their students to ride the lift with other adults if they already have several to handle on the lifts themselves.
Lifties at B leave it up to other adults on the lift to support children in need. They don’t speak down to the kids either, but that’s because they don’t speak to them at all.
When lifts break down for more than 15 minutes, lifties at B are instructed to give those who had to wait on the lift a coupon for hot chocolate, but some forget to offer it.
When this happens to lifties at A, or when a skier is inconvenienced due to an error made by the resort, skiers get coupons for free lunches.
Whenever there is a problem for a visitor, lifty at A takes the initiative to try to solve it for the guest.
Lifty at B instructs you to do something, which translates into ‘you are on your own, go away’.
As a case in point, when people fall down around lifts and lift lines (and they do), lifties at A go out of their way to support them, care for them and make light of dignities left behind. Lifties at B get annoyed when this happens. They will help, but really want you to go to another lift right away. When lift lines slow down, lifties at A will get creative, making goofy snowmen or amusing signs. Lifties at B run inside their hut to warm up.
Why is there such a vast difference? It is not the pay. Lifties at B earn more than lifties at A. There are however material differences in:
– staffing methods and sources;
– job competencies and requirements;
– training and coaching;
– incentives and rewards;
– the role of seniority vs performance; and
– workplace culture and attitudes.
Many factors affect which destinations people choose for skiing, short term or long term. The lifties can make a big difference in the experience and in those choices. I can tell you that I have spent considerable time with lifties at both A and B. Going forward, I will spend much more of it with lifties at A.
- It is good to invest in your people to create great customer experiences.
- It is bad to let seniority trump skill, enthusiasm and attitude with staffing positions that serve guests or the public.
- It is ugly to permit a culture of privilege and selfishness to permeate among your employees.
Andreas H. Noe, MBA, BComm Marketing, is a founding partner of Phase 5 and has more than 30 years of experience in marketing research and consulting. Andreas leads Phase 5’s Customer Experience and Market Insights teams.