ET16- How Any Business Can Win w/5 Star Service

How to Wow Your Customers Like Disney Does

ScreenShot011Lots of small business seem the same and are more or less the same- until it comes to service.

If you can deliver amazing service to your clients you are going to stand out, be able to charge more, get more referrals and generally do a lot better than your ho-hum competitors.

In my chat with Vance Morris he gives some very specific examples and tactics of how business owners can use amazing service and a wow experience to make their businesses stand out from the crowd and leave the competition in the dust.

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Matt: I am excited to welcome to today’s show, Mr. Vance Morris, coming to us from Maryland. He is the owner/founder of He’s got a long and interesting story here and his background and startup. With that, let me just hand it over to you. Kinda give us where you came from and how you got to where you are now.

Vance: Great! Well, thanks very much for having me on. I appreciate you taking the time. I really started, I guess, back in college. I’ve been working my entire life – Fast forwarding quite a bit, after college I spent 10 years at the Walt Disney Company down in Orlando, Florida. Opened up their Yacht and Beach Club Resorts which is over by FCut Center. Spent some time as a manager and duty manager for Pleasure Island which was Disney’s ten-year sale experiment with alcohol and nightlife but it’s no longer there so I’m guessing they buried it well. But really, what I enjoyed the most was creating and opening up a phenomenal restaurant at Disney which is called Chef Mickey. It was their premiere character dining destination. I took all of the years of Disney Experience and really invested it into one operation. Everything about guest service, everything about systems and systemizing your business. I mean, our restaurant was 400+ seats and we have to get Mickey Mouse through that restaurant in 43 minutes to serve 400 people which is no small feet and doing that was really just a sense of pride. Everybody on the team, managers and hourly cast members, we’re really just excited that we pull this thing off. Actually, just recently in the last few years, they added another 75 seats to the place. I can only imagine how well it is going. We have to balance that though with what the company wanted. We needed to be profitable. How do you provide a great client experience or a great guest experience and balance it with the needs of the company to be a profitable experience? That’s what certainly my huge exercise. I managed that operation for over 3 and a half, almost 4 years, before I left. And yes, people do leave Disney. Before you ask that question, it does happen. We’re not outcasts or anything like that. I went on to work with a number of – some of your listeners may know of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Centers. I worked for some Federal Government Agencies, the Executive Offices of the President, the IRS, NASA and really worked to improve their contract services and the services that others provided to the employees of those organizations. Some of your listeners might be able to relate in the big bad corporate world, especially in the Federal Government. There have been a ton of layoffs. I’ve found myself getting laid off actually twice. First time, I bounced back pretty quickly. Second time, I was like “I’m not putting my hand or excuse me, my sate in anyone else’s hands. I’m gonna go out and do my own thing.” So, I bought a franchise. As I mentioned, I’m a big systems guy. I was looking for something that had the framework to run a business. But then also gave me the flexibility to do what I needed to do in my market place. So, I opened up not knowing the first thing about carpet cleaning or an upholstery cleaning heck I barely vacuumed. But I opened up a carpet upholstery and oriental rug cleaning business back in 2007. If you think about what happened in ’07 that was a hell of a year to open up any business or be in business with the financial implosion right around the corner. But, not knowing anything, starting in zero and going up, it did really face me because I was going up while everybody else is going down. So I felt good. That led to – people are starting to see the success that I had with that business. Some of my fellow franchisers hired me to come in and help them with their service and their marketing. We really built that up. I actually turned that 2nd business into a full time business. I still own the franchise which is the carpet cleaning franchise but I also coach and teach other implement Disney style service and more importantly how to market that
and monetize that which brings us here to today. That is my 4 and a half minute version of who I am.

Matt: Well, there’s a couple of points that particularly jump out to me there. One of them is the restaurant experience because after I got out of College, before I went back and got an MBA, I was in restaurant management for a number of years. Although I kinda hated it at that time because it always [inaudible 0:11:04.6] and I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. Even at that time, especially in hindsight, I learned some really valuable lessons there on things have to have a process. There has to procedures. There has to be a system for things to work well and I got eventually promoted to the point where I was sent to the underperforming units to fix them up. I could see, first hand, in each one it almost always – no matter what the surface problems were – it could be traced back to a failure of management and even more specifically a failure of management to follow the systems that they should’ve been following to make things work in the first place. To me, it was really an eye opening lesson in how to have a well-runned business. Obviously, there’s room for improvement in systems. There should be some flexibility to make improvements and changes. But overall, you got to start with a good base of systems if you want to be successful. That was something it sounds like you’ve learned as well.

Vance: Definitely. I’m glad I did because I carried that forward everywhere that I went. You look at some of the systems whether be the employee systems, whether be culinary systems, financial systems or whatever, you are actually right. If you can manage a restaurant, there really isn’t a job out there that you can’t do because you look at the breathe of people that you interact with over the course of the day. You’re interacting with guests. Depending on your restaurant, it could be some very high-profile guests. Then in the next minute, you’re on the back with the dishwasher because something’s broken. In the minute, you’re frying French fries. In the next minute, you’re expediting. Then you’re right back out front with the hostess and working with the public again. You have to have a seamless transition between each one of those areas and that look like you likely have 3 heads and you’re fallen apart at the senses. I definitely agree with you. Being a restaurant manager certainly prepared me for everything else that I’ve done.

Matt: Well, it is a kind of a pressure cooker environment because sometimes you’re literally putting out fire.

Vance: Yes. I’ve been there.

Matt: But most of the time its figurative fires but there’s just things coming at you from all the directions all the time. You learned to keep a cool head and you learned to kinda rely on your systems and your training, providing better training for the people working for you, make sure life is easier and you can see what works and what doesn’t. all of the clients that we have are small business clients. There’s a definite pattern. Those who that tend to be successful and tend to be growing, they’ve taken a time to established consistent ways of doing things. The ones that tend to be running around like chicken with their heads cut off is because every day seems like the reinvention of the wheel. That makes it tough to grow when you are constantly just trying to solve problems. The same problems you had yesterday, you trying to solve them again today.

Vance: I think one of the things too that really helped was you discovered that there’s no unimportant job in a restaurant. Every single job there is necessary to ensure that the place runs – from the dishwasher to the bartender. A lot of people forget, especially the back of the house which is what we call the cooks and culinary folks when you’re a non-restaurant, non-foodie types. The dishwashers, they are always wondering “Why is my job so important?” One of the exercises we did when we hired new dishwashers is I would have the chefs prepare an exquisite meal and we will set the table to the nines with a 3-course beautifully prepared whether it was a steamed lobster, a fine bakery dish, we will set the table and bring the dishwashers out to dine at this exquisite meal. But the twist was that we set it with very dirty plates – lipstick stained wine glasses, spotted, and food-crusted silverware. All of the sudden, you can see all of the little light bulbs going off in all the dishwashers head that said “Look! Your job is extremely important because no matter what we put on to this plate, if the plates not clean to begin with the experience of the guests is gonna be a complete turn off and we’ll never see them again.” From then on, we have the loyalty of everyone in the restaurant because as management, we knew that every position counted. I think that was a really powerful message and a great way to support that even just the dishwashers, sometimes they are the heroes of the restaurant world.

Matt: Yeah. Personally, I’ve never understood places where they’ll put the lowest paid, least trained, least personable person either answering the phones or working at the hostess station or whatever. If this is your first impression on customers and new customers, is that really the person that you want to be making that impression. In my business, the people that answer the phones here are the ones that know the most, that can be the most helpful, that can solve problems, that can help clients that call or new clients, answer questions. It just seems backwards. But you’re right. If you don’t really appreciate that every position has an impact on the business, you can definitely blow it for yourself. Along those lines, obviously you’ve got the restaurant experience for systems and process but then you got the Disney experience the “wow” service. Obviously, that’s something you’ve learned from Disney but you carried forward to now. How do you roll that into your current business?

Vance: Certainly, there’s a lot of different ways that we “wow-ed” our clients. As we talked a little bit before we started recording, we have what we would call a very commoditize business. I mean, we’re carpet cleaners. You would even go so far as to say that were kind of underhined and swarmy and we don’t hold the very highest steam as far as home services businesses. I mean, Deck ABCs 20/20, they are big expose on what carpet cleaners do, with hidden cameras, while they are in your home and you’re not watching. You know, stealing the chains from in between the cushions, drinking out of the milk from the refrigerator. These are already a big stigma with my industry and one of the things I wanted to do is to make sure that I separated myself from all of those shenanigans and all of those – we call them the [inaudible 0:18:12.1] – the guys who have a garden hose and a shot back and they call themselves carpet cleaner. One of the ways that we “wow” and there’s a lot of systems to back this up, it is just the macrocosm of what we do but it’s how we approach the house when one of my technicians pulls up. First and foremost, they are in a clean van. Go figure. We’re a cleaning company. We should have a clean vehicle. We don’t pull in to the driveway right away. We park out on the street because we’re going to somebody’s home. We want to be invited in before – we don’t just assume that they’re going to let us in. the technicians are in a clean uniform. If he has a dirty uniform, he carries an extra one in the van for those mishaps. If he spilled coffee or his last job was messy, he always has an extra uniform so it’s always looking crystal clean. If you think about some of the folks that come to your house to fix things, plumbers, electricians, pest control, a lot of these guys look like they just kinda rolled out of the gutter. They smell like smoke. Their pants are undone. They don’t have a uniform. I wouldn’t let that guy in my house if he looked like that. When they approach the door, we lay down a special
matt, kind of laying down a red carpet. We knock. We don’t ring the doorbell. Visitors and strangers ring the bell. People that we know, and guests and friends, knock on the door. We wait for the person to open the door. We have a gift with this. We actually give our clients a small gift. It sets the stage psychologically for a little bit of resupressity later on in the sales presentation but anytime you go to a friend’s house for a party, usually you bring something. Whether it be a bottle of wine, or you brought a side dish or something like that, my guys all bring a small house warming gift. We present that even before we get into the house. “Ma’am, we brought you a nice little gift here. We’d love to be able to clean your home. My name is Robert. May I come in?” then, we wait to be invited in. it just goes from there. The entire sales cycle, the entire sales process is very scripted but it’s all scripted around “wowing” the client with the different things that we can do. Right from the [inaudible 0:20:33.4], from opening the door, people are just blown away. We make an exaggerated effort of wiping our feet on this red carpet but we do it and people are just completely amazed. When was the last time electrician or a plumber wipe their feet later on took off their shoes before they came into your house? That’s just one way that we are “wowing” people.

Matt: Well, and I think the interesting point about that is those are lessons that virtually any small business, whether or not you interact with people in a face-to-face basis or if it’s over the phone or what have you, I think you can take the entire process from initial contact all the way through to final thank you, have a nice day. Look at it, and kinda “How can we improve this step? How can we improve that step? What can we do that would be well-received by the client and make us look fair ably honest and improve their experience?” you may have done a dozen things just in a few minutes. Even just a few of those things I think can make a significant difference. That’s something any business can take to heart and do.

Vance: Yeah. You’re actually right. One of the other cool things, especially Bricks and Motor Business, is if you have an office, set yourself apart from the rest of whatever niche you happened to be in. I worked with a dentist and we made it into – we got him to agree that he didn’t just want to be a general dentist. He wanted to be a pediatric dentist. Okay, great. We could have a lot of fun with this. [Excuse me] So, we set up his office and he became the pirate dentist. We outfitted his office. To the nines, setting his office up to look like a pirate ship. Everybody was wearing pirate scrubs. The dentist wore eye patch, not during procedures, but he had an eye pad. We didn’t call anybody wenches. Again, this was a pediatric dental place. But he became the pirate dentist. He had peter pan stuff all over the place, the video games that he set up for the kids to play in the lobby. You know, you’re at a dentist office. The least thing you want to think about is what’s gonna happen when you get behind the door. The way his lobby was set up was so disarming for the gets that they forgot they were at the dentist office. They were playing games. They were having fun. The whole place, you didn’t see the [inaudible 0:23:13.9] hanging on the wall. You didn’t see models that are smiling. You see pirate stuff and it was really cool. Really decide who your niches are gonna be and who your perfect client is. You don’t have to go to that great of that extent or that great of an expense to transform your business, your physical business. But you should do something that’s gonna express your personality, that’s gonna express what it is that you’re trying to do for your clients. It’s just funny. You mentioned you’re a bookkeeper. I worked with a bookkeeper and she decided that she was going to niche herself into only being a veterinary bookkeeper so she only works with veterinarians. The cool thing about doing that is once you start to specialize, you get some of what we call “Price Elasticity” or “Fee Elasticity”. Because you’re now a specialist in veterinary accounting as oppose to just a general bookkeeper or general accountant, you can now command higher prices. You don’t think that pirate dentist doesn’t get higher prices. He doesn’t rely on insurance for a lot of his work because people are mostly private pay. Obviously you know, insurance probably wouldn’t pay for the video games and all the other stuff that they are doing. But when you really start to focus on who your perfect client avatar is and start to serve that particular niche, there’s a lot of you can do with your pricing. There’s a lot of elasticity that I think a lot of business owners miss out on.

Matt: Well, yeah. I think a lot of people are afraid to get too narrow because they expect that means they gonna miss out on a lot of business they could’ve otherwise done. That may be true in the short term. But I think in the long term, you have a lot more to benefit if you can serve a particular market really well rather than serving a general market sort of so-so, not much different from everyone else.

Vance: I don’t remember who said it but they said “There are riches in niches.” I do the same thing in my carpet cleaning business. We are not the cleaner for everyone. My marketing, and most marketing should be designed not only to attract your perfect client but also to repel those you don’t want to do business with. There are folks out there in my area that live in a single wide trailer. They got a 3-legged dog and a confederate flag. I’m not making this up. I’ve been to this house. I don’t want to go back. That’s just not the type of client that is going to appreciate the level of service that we are gonna provide nor that is somebody that I wanted. Once you start become a commodity, the only thing that you can compete on is price. The more you can make yourself non-commoditize, if I’ve just invented a word, I’m not sure. The faster you can do that, the faster it’s gonna be to the price elasticity. Once you get that, you don’t have to work quite as hard. I would rather have 10 clients paying me 10 times at much than a hundred clients paying me at my regular fee. There’s less headaches. There’s less to do. I’ve got more time to me and I can focus all of my efforts on those 10 clients. You’re right. The short term, they may feel a little bit of a pinch but long-term strategy should really be find a niche and just serve the living daylights out of it.

Matt: Then, the better you serve it, one of the things that comes from that, from standing out, from being the pirate dentist if you will, is you tend to get more referrals. One of the things I noticed on something you’ve written here, one of the things you refer to in document referrals is your business must be tellable. Could you enlighten me a little bit on what that means and how that relates to great service and getting more referrals?

Vance: Sure. And it goes right back to what we’ve just talked about. Your business to be tellable is when a customer leaves, or a client leaves, or guest, or whatever you call them in your particular business. When they leave, what are they going to say about your business? Are they going to have a phenomenal experience and tell 10 people? Or did they have an average experience and say “That’s what I expected from my bookkeeper.” “that’s what I expect from my local restaurant.” Not really excited. They may have had an average experience. For some people and some business owners, average is okay. To me, average is not okay because I got to spend more time and effort to get that new clients in an average business. Whereas if you have an extra ordinary and a tellable business, you don’t have to work so hard or spend as much in your client acquisition or your marketing and lead generation because you already got an army of people who have come through and will do that for you. If they can leave your place and they’re like “Oh my god! You’ll never guess. The carpet cleaner brought me a gift!” and “Your carpet cleaner brought you a gift? What the heck is that all about? Tell me more.” Now, your business becomes a conversation point. I can’t tell you the number of clients that we’ve gotten just from that gift. People are so “Oh! I want to make sure I get the gift.” [Inaudible 0:28:59.3], we ran out of gifts one day. The whole thing about referrals I just think is, there’s a lot of garbage out there about referrals. I know there’s referral organizations and things like that but asking for referrals is probably one of the worst things you could do. You’re putting the person in the bad position. You don’t know yet if they are truly a raving fan of yours or not. You’ve got to set your referrals up more subtlety and have a complete referral systems set up. In all of my businesses, I set up the expectation that you will refer me. That’s the message that I’m delivering, “In order to do business with me, I expect referrals.” Now, I can’t come out and say that. I’ll look like a complete jerk and probably wouldn’t get any business. However, in all of my marketing I put it in there. I have a section in my newsletter thanking my clients for the people that they refer. That’s setting it up a little bit. At the end of the service, we hand out certificates that that client can give to their friends for a free room of carpet cleaning or if it’s with my service consulting business for a 20-minute consultation with me. They have a certificate that they give it off. Then I’m gonna probably have a dozen ways to generate and cultivate referrals without having to go to any of my clients and tap them on the shoulder and say “Excuse me. Do you have a friend just like you who could benefit for my business?” if they ask me and bring me into the conversation like “How can I get you more business?” I’ll certainly open up. But that whole ask for referrals, I’m just not a big fan of that. I think referrals have to happen naturally if they are going to be a powerful referral for you.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. We tend to use the same kind of – “Here’s a gift. If you’re interested and feel like it’s a good fit, you can give it to somebody who think maybe somebody that would be interested in working with us.” In that way, it lets them make the decision on what they gonna refer and be the good guy and that they are giving the gift to the person they’re referring. In our case right now, we’re doing a $100 Amazon Gift Card. So that way, somebody who’s got a good experience with us can give $100 to somebody else they know and say “Hey! Try this guy’s out. No harm, no foul if you don’t like it.” but you also give this extra thing. “Now I get to give you a $100 Amazon Gift Card” which is kinda a cool gift to get. It’s a different approach than saying “Hey! Send me the emails of people you know.” Which is much harder.

Vance: Yes. Also, it is not as valuable to me as a business owner to get a bunch of cold or lukewarm referrals. I want a pipe and hot referral that’s ready to buy. One of the strategies I use and I recommend it to everybody, all of my coaching clients, that you have a book. It doesn’t have to be a big book. It can be a self-published book. But that you have a book. What you can do with your book is you use that instead of your business card. Sales people have business cards or sales people have brochures. Experts have books. Part of our gift to our client, they get 2 of my books. I’ve written 3 on carpet cleaning. If I can write 3 books on carpet cleaning, your audience can write 1 book on whatever subject it is that they are doing. But I give them 2 books. One for themselves and one to give away to their friend or neighbor. “Oh my gosh! I got an extra book on oriental rugs. Let me pass that over to my neighbor because I know she’s been looking for somebody.” That’s how you can cultivate the referrals. But using the book strategy is huge.

Matt: I have a book too on bookkeeping.

Vance: Oh! Great!

Matt: Yeah. That’s very well to get people too. It provides a lot of value. If they are also interested in more, obviously it’s a great source of differentiator and credibility builder for us. Yeah, I agree with you a hundred percent. That’s a fantastic tool. On more topic I want to hit on here which is something is near and dear to my heart as well is how do you go about, obviously phenomenal service is one of the corner stones of building the business. But, what is your sort of direct marketing or outreach efforts like? What have you found that works for your business that maybe some of the other small business owners listening might want to give a try too? Because you know, Google Ad Word is expensive. It doesn’t work well for everybody, Facebook ads, twitter. It’s all kinds of ways to spend your marketing dollar. But in your experience, what are some of the things that have proven to be better return on investment than others?

Vance: Sure. Those last three words that you just said, return on investment, are things that I mandate. All of my marketing pieces I have to be able to measure the return. If I have a dollar out on marketing, I want to see that dollar come back preferably as $2, $3 or $10. A lot of folks – I use what’s called direct response marketing which is a style of marketing where you elicit some sort of response from the guest. It might not be an immediate sale. Or excuse me, from the prospect. It might not be an immediate sale but it might be a lead generation effort where “Opt in to this and get a free report.” “Call this 1-800 number and I’ll send my books for free.” Because I know it’s all lead generation. Every one of those things that I do, right now I have just did a presentation on this and I took a slide shot. I have 87 different marketing strategies and systems and processes running at this very moment. Eighty seven of them. This is for a carpet cleaning business. It’s a very complex way to go about it. it mixes pretty much everything that works. You asked me what works. It really just depends on who you market and who you’re looking for but one of the things that I think is often overlooked is direct mail because you control the message. You’re competing in a vacuum for people’s attention. If you’re doing Google Ad Words, there’s nothing worse than looking at a website and seeing the Facebook icon, the Google plus icon, or the twitter icon on the front page of anybody’s website. Because, you just spend a whole bunch of money, time and effort, directing them to your landing page, to your website and now you just gave them three opportunities to get off and go to Facebook. We know what happens when you go to Facebook. Half hour of your life would just disappear like that. This is a giant time suck. I always tell people “Get those little icon off. Even if everybody does it, get rid of those little icons that are on your website because all you’re doing is driving traffic somewhere else as oppose to keeping them on your site.” Direct mail is certainly number one whether it be a postcard. I use what’s called a Big Ass Post Card. Its 12 x 15 card. It’s the biggest post card you can send in the US Mail. Talk about an attention grabber. Then also, I still do some newspaper printing, newspaper ads, not as much as I used to. The ones that I do are still giving me a great return. The couple of the outreach things it is probably, in my business, it’s almost ten times more expensive to acquire a new client than it is to retain an old one. You have to do the math. You have to do the matrix on how often one of your clients make some purchase, what’s the lifetime value of one of your clients. But, on average I spend about $87 to get one new carpet cleaning client. That’s a lot of money especially when you look at a lot of national ads out there. Those guys out there that are $99 for 3 rooms. I’m like “If it cost them as much as it cost me to get a client, $87,$99 minus $87, that’s not a lot of money to invest in the vehicle, employees, wages, the solutions. But it only cost them $12 a year to keep that client. I spend about a dollar a month for every client that I have to keep them. I think, your client retention systems really need to be at the fore front. Yes, you need client acquisition. You always need to be getting new clients. But if you have a very robust client retention in place which is probably 20 of my 87 systems, that’s what’s keeping the wheel spinning. I’ve got repeat guests. Usually, right around 75% repeat with me year after year. That’s a huge number. Instead of spending $87 to get that job, I only had to spend $12. So it’s more money in my pocket.

Matt: Yeah. I think, virtually, every business being able to sell more and more often to existing customers is a better return on the effort than trying to acquire new customers. There’s not a lot of businesses that are strictly [inaudible 0:39:22.0] One and done and you never see them again. There are some but if you can continue to sell to customers who already know and like you, I think you tend to be a lot better off.
Vance: Yeah. Well, you almost send like my friend, Joe Polish. “No light can trust.” That’s people you want to sell to.

Matt: Yeah. It makes sense. He must be a smart guy.

Vance: Very smart guy!

Matt: Awesome! Well, I appreciate you taking the time today. For people who are interested in finding out more and getting more in depth with you and even checking out some of your books in carpet cleaning and I know you’ve got some non-carpet cleaning books as well. Where can they find you? Where do they get in touch?
Vance: Sure. The best thing is on our website which is on there, I have a free report called “Systematic Magic: How to Disneyfy any business” It is a 7-page quick read that you can start to implement a “wow!” You can start to get some Disney Style Systems implemented in your business right away. So it’s a very actionable guide once you download that. I also run a book camp down in business. I wrote about 6 of those years. If you’re looking for something intense and you want to spend 3 days with me on Walt Disney World, that information is on the website as well. But it’s a really cool 3-day expedition where we can really go behind the curtain to see how Disney does it.

Matt: Wow! That’s sounds pretty intense doing a Disney Style Training at Disney World!

Vance: Yup!

Matt: Awesome! Well, I appreciate you taking the time and sharing your experience and knowledge. Like I said earlier to you, I think we had an agreement on a lot of these things. I think these are not difficult things to do. It’s just a matter of investing the time and making the effort and you really can take a business from being average to being way above what the competition is doing, “wowing” your customers and having a lot of success. I appreciate you taking the time to share that experience and knowledge with us again.

Vance: Yeah! Great, Matt! I really appreciate you having me on. It was fun.

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