Improve your customer service by asking what would your Mum do – Interview with Lee Cockerell


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Today’s interview is with Lee Cockerell, who has had a hugely successful career working for Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels and Resorts and The Walt Disney Company. Lee now runs his own company to share what he has learned over his career and joins us today to talk about his 2nd and new book: The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service.

This interviews follows on the back of last week’s interview: Customer service and customer loyalty can be improved by using decision science – Interview with Phil Barden and is number fifty-one in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here’s the highlights from the interview I did with Lee:

  • Lee sent me a postcard with his recent book (See image below) that has 7 guest service guidelines based on the 7 dwarfs is great. If you want to get hold of a copy for yourself then get in touch with Lee – details are here.
  • 7 guest service guidelines Lee Cockerell

  • Everything is becoming commoditised these days so the new book (The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service) contains 39 bite-sized rules that don’t cost anything to implement and that focus on the getting the basics right and helping business stand out from their competitors.
  • The first rule is: Customer Service is not a Department……it’s a culture and it’s everyones responsibility
  • When starting to write the book Lee asked his 13-year grand-daughter what the first rule of customer service should be and whiteout a seconds delay she said “Well Papi, the first rule is be nice”.
  • Another rule is that great service follows the law of gravity and starts at the top. The top being the leaders in an organisation, department or team.
  • Rule 5: Ask yourself what would your Mum do. Lee believes that mothers are probably the best leaders in the world. They can always make the hard and right decisions as they take the long term view and are not focused on short term happiness.
  • Rule 26: Serve to W.I.N. which stands for What’s Important Now – many people and businesses get caught up with unimportant work and forget that the most important thing in any business is the customer and the work that needs to get done for them or to serve them. Other things can wait. Don’t make your customers wait.
  • Rule 28: Know the difference between needs and wants – the differences can be subtle but paying attention to understand the difference can make a huge difference to the service you deliver.
  • Rule 39: Don’t try too hard – don’t overpower the customer, use finesses, be natural. Some people try to hard, with good intentions, but end up pushing the customer away. Service with no pressure.
  • Lee’s top three tips: One, get better at hiring and promoting people – find people with passion and enthusiasm; Two, up your training dramatically which will help people with their self-confidence and execution of service; Three, work on the culture of your company where people matter, their opinions and work matters and they know they matter….where they are proud and want to come to work and it’s not just for their pay-check.
  • Implementing this sort of change may feel hard but everything is hard before it’s easy.
  • As Disney, they focused on training so everyone knew what they were doing and could do it to the best of their ability.
  • Disney customers tend to talk about the people not the rides. It’s all about the people.
  • Don’t expect immediate results, everything that is worth it takes time to achieve or to implement.
  • The-Customer-Rules-Lee-Cockerell-250x250

  • Check out Lee’s books: Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, his new one: The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service, his Lessons in Leadership blog and his app: Creating Magic – Leadership & Coaching on the Go! on iTunes or Android

About Lee (taken for his bio on his website)

Lee Cockerell

Lee Cockerell is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort. “As the Senior Operating Executive for ten years Lee led a team of 40,000 Cast Members and was responsible for the operations of 20 resort hotels, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping & entertainment village and the ESPN sports and recreation complex in addition to the ancillary operations which supported the number one vacation destination in the world.”

One of Lee’s major and lasting legacies was the creation of Disney Great Leader Strategies which was used to train and develop the 7000 leaders at Walt Disney World. Lee has held various executive positions in the hospitality and entertainment business with Hilton Hotels for 8 years and the Marriott Corporation for 17 years before joining Disney in 1990 to open the Disneyland Paris project.

Lee has served as Chairman of the Board of Heart of Florida United Way, the Board of Trustees for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the board of the Production and Operations Management Society and the board of Reptilia a Canadian attractions and entertainment company. In 2005 Governor Bush appointed Lee to the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Public Service for the state of Florida where he served as Chairman of the Board.

He is now dedicating his time to public speaking, authoring a book on leadership, management and service excellence titled, Creating Magic…10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney. which is now available in 13 languages and his latest book, The Customer Rules…The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service. Lee also performs leadership and service excellence workshops and consulting for organizations around the world as well as for the Disney Institute.

You can find out more about Lee at his website (, connect with him on Twitter @LeeCockerell, LinkedIn and grab his books on Amazon: Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, and his new one: The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service.

Note: I take an unashamedly DIY approach to my podcasts with no intro and outro, unlike many other podcasts. So, what you get is just conversation less a few ‘ums’ and ‘errs’ that I’ve been able to edit out to make everyone sound slightly more eloquent. If you like the podcast be sure to subscribe to it via iTunes. If you do then please take the time to rate the podcast on iTunes too. Thanks.

Photo Credit: Matteo Bagnoli via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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