Excerpts from Be Our Guest, Chapter 4: The Magic of Setting
Setting is the environment in which service is delivered to customers, all of the objects within that environment, and the procedures used to enhance and maintain the service environment and objects. More simply, setting is the stage on which business is conducted.
- If you ask the typical businessperson how their company delivers service to customers, they will surely mention people and processes as primary delivery systems. But the idea that an organization’s setting can somehow deliver service is more obscure.
- Setting can deliver both the physical and psychological aspects of service.
- All organizations, knowingly or unknowingly, build messages to their customers into the settings in which they operate.
- Picture a luxury car dealership and a used car lot. Now, a theme park and a carnival. And now, a designer clothing retailer and an outlet store. In each pair, people are buying similar products—cars, entertainment, and apparel. But, in each case, the setting in which they buy these products is communicating a great deal about the quality of the products and services customers can expect, not to mention the price they are willing to pay.
- A good exercise to better understand the messages sent by setting is to visualize a store that you patronize or better yet, actually visit It. Drive up to the front entrance and look at the signage and landscaping. What impression do they convey about the business within? Enter the business. Look at the entryway. Is it clear how to proceed? Is it clean and orderly? What does it tell you about this organization? Continue to observe the setting throughout the process of making a purchase. At each step, think about what the setting is telling you. Now, return to your own organization. Approach it like one of your customers and repeat the exercise. What does your setting tell customers?
- The simple fact is that everything, animate and inanimate, speaks to customers. Not only does everything speak, it also acts upon customers. The messages delivered by setting change customers’ perceptions about the products and services that we sell.
- As R. Buckminster Fuller aptly said, “You can’t change people. But if you change the environment that the people are in, they will change.”
- The point of all of this is that setting is a critical element of the Quality Service Cycle and it is vital that settings be designed and managed to effectively communicate and deliver service to customers.
The Components of Setting
- Architectural design
- Directional design on carpet
- Texture of floor surface
- Focal points and directional signs
- Internal/external detail
- Music/ambient noise
- Touch/tactile experiences
Setting also includes the work of maintaining and enhancing the environment and the objects within it. Even the best-designed setting must be continuously maintained and improved. A poorly maintained setting is just as telling as a poorly designed one. Maintenance means more than just keeping the setting clean. It also means protecting it from damage, and repairing wear and tear.
A lot of work
- Telling a story through setting means getting the details right. An organization can’t send customers a believable message regarding Quality Service unless every detail of setting supports it. An overflowing trash basket or a dead plant can undercut a message about the quality of your product or the care for your customers in a single glance. A sign with missing letters or misspelled words tells customers something about you.
- If it all sounds like a lot of work, it is. For all of its success, the Disney theme show is quite a fragile thing. It just takes one contradiction, one out-of-place stimulus to negate everything. Put up a brown-paper-bag sign that says “Keep Out” . . . take a host’s costume away and put him in blue jeans and a tank top . . . replace that Gay Nineties melody with rock numbers . . . place a touch of artificial turf here. . . add a surly employee there . . . it really doesn’t take much to upset it all.
- What’s our success formula? It’s attention to infinite detail, the little things, the little, minor, picky points that others just don’t want to take the time, money, or effort to do. As far as our Disney organization is concerned, it’s the only way we’ve ever done it . . . it’s been our success formula. We’ll probably be explaining this to outsiders at the end of our next two decades in the business.