Establishing a customer-centric culture


You’ve made a genuine effort to clearly define a customer-centric culture in your dealership and introduced it at a special all-team presentation. But they just don’t seem to get it and the truth is you were bound to fail.

So says authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson who are considered the foremost experts on the incredibly successful Walt Disney Company culture that has led to its decades of prosperity.

In their latest book, “The Disney Way: Third Edition,” Capodagli and Jackson detail how companies of any size, from a startup to a Fortune 500, can reach higher levels of success and profitability by embracing Walt Disney’s techniques for a consumer-centric culture. And doing so can lead to a real competitive advantage.

So what is corporate culture? First, a good culture doesn’t just happen. The leader must commit time to study, learn and develop a plan. Moreover, the dealership must be ready to accept key elements that drive a customer-centric culture. Two of these are values and codes of conduct.

Values are the soul of the organization, say Capodagli and Jackson. Values must be part of an organization’s DNA — they’re the “constitution” — the way difficult decisions are made.

Codes of conduct, on the other hand, are the 10 to 15 positive behaviors that employees should be demonstrating to support the organization’s values. These codes give a general direction regarding how to behave while enabling employees to use their common sense to perform in their roles. When people know they are being trusted, they will rise to levels that will even surprise themselves, advise Capodagli and Jackson.

But they also warn not everyone is prepared for the hard work required to produce a customer-centric culture. The emotional commitment to (1) actually living the values; (2) listening to the true needs of both employees and customers; and (3) practicing the codes of conduct require daily focus.

All that said, my favorite element recommended to solidify a customer-centric culture is a “story.” Capodagli and Jackson write that “a story is for Main Street; a mission is for Wall Street.” Many organizations write polished mission statements. Perhaps your dealership already has one. And that’s OK, but the truth is these statements often have little substance. So what they really fail to do is generate any passion. Enter the stories.

Studies have shown that people are more than 20 times more likely to remember a story than a series of facts or a bland mission statement. Great stories engage hearts and minds and create a mental image of the quality of an organization. So, in the Disney organization, to produce the best results, each department and attraction rallies around a story that engages the guests. Stories that are powerfully created can motivate employees to perform their roles in their own unique “show,” contend Capodagli and Jackson.

I believe every dealership has some great stories to tell. Stories from existing customers about how the dealership’s team advanced a family’s enjoyment of boating; eliminated any hassle before it ever happened; solved a problem better and faster; reached out with activities and learning opportunities for the whole family; created new boating experiences for old customers; and many more.

Clearly, modeling the Disney Way customer-centric culture in your dealership would take commitment and work at all levels. After all, if it were as easy as just announcing at a staff meeting you’ve got a culture in place, every dealership in the world would have exceptional customer service.

But if you choose to do it, you will have the opportunity to leave your competition in your wake.


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