Last month we attended A3’s annual Business Forum. It’s an event we look forward to not only to meet up with others in the robotics industry, but also for the opportunity to learn more about upcoming issues, trends and forecasts for the coming fiscal year.

The keynote speakers are always excellent, but this year Dennis Snow of Snow & Associates, Inc.’s presentation, titled “Leading a Culture of Service Excellence; Lessons from the Mouse,” particularly struck a chord with me. As a former Disney employee, Snow learned from one of the most service-oriented organizations in the world how to perfect the art of customer service and teach others how to put their best foot forward with customers at all times.

His presentation included three tenets that Disney follows: Involvement, Vision and Accountability. But Disney isn’t the only organization whose success is directly tied to its superior service. In the consumer world, there’s also Nordstrom – whose staff goes through a rigorous training program – and L.L.Bean, which has a “we’ll take anything back, anytime” return policy that is virtually unheard of.

But what about robotics? How can we take these lessons from the consumer world and employ them within our industry to give our customers the best experience possible?

Using these tenets, I’ve highlighted the three ways below:

Vision. Every company has its own unique corporate culture. In our industry, it’s not enough to be able to explain the difference between a SCARA and 6-axis robot. While that is certainly important, employees that embody your company’s culture – and understand how that relates to the overall corporate vision – make the best fit and will provide the best, most consistent experience for your customers. That’s why the initial interview process – along with ongoing training – are so vital. Model your culture from the very first interview. Provide training and ongoing communication that helps employees completely understand and buy into your unique vision and what it means in terms of your expectations for them.
Involvement. This doesn’t just mean ‘checking in’ with staff from time to time. As Snow said in his presentation, it involves actually “engaging the minds” of team members. Having this two-way approach to employee interactions can help managers in our industry get to the bottom of what barriers to success exist before the customer is affected.

Accountability. When expectations are clearly outlined, employees know exactly where they stand – and what’s expected of them. This helps them to feel more engaged, resulting in a more honest, trustworthy staff, which ultimately benefits customers.Given the technical nature of what we do in robotics, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the importance of having a reliable, responsive staff. But without that, customers won’t come back.

Sometimes in robotics we become so overly focused on the technology that it’s easy to forget that success is not measured on technological capabilities alone. Yes, potential customers will look at a particular solution based on their manufacturing needs. But if the overall experience isn’t a positive one, they won’t stay. By imbuing some of the tenets of success typically used by consumer organizations such as Disney, robotics customers will come for the technology, and stay for the service.

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