Plus the Show, Clean a Windshield, Beat Your Competition

Muddy Windshield

The note on my windshield reminded me of the mantra at Disney to constantly plus the show; to make the already good even better. “Thank you for staying with us, we took the liberty of cleaning your windshield last night so you enjoy your drive through the Canadian Rockies.”

I just returned from a five-day business trip to Alberta, Canada. During my stay, I conducted leadership and customer service seminars in Calgary, Banff, Jasper and Edmonton. Certainly, the Canadian Rockies and Banff and Jasper National Parks are world-renowned locations. However, each city was amazing for its own reasons. Driving from city to city offered spectacular views of mountains, vistas and glaciers. Each turn in the road brought a new “wow!”

Despite the natural beauty that surrounds each of these cities, I found a common question coming from every audience in each place, “how do we make the experience of our domestic and international customers even better than it already is?” The desire of the business owners, managers, federal government agency and local municipalities to further refine an already outstanding “product” was refreshing. Yet, I found many to be wringing their hands over something that simply cannot be controlled; Mother Nature. Indeed, many people from around the world enjoy the outdoor adventures that abound in the Province of Alberta. Yet, there are times when skiers might have a “bad snow” day. There are going to be days when campers won’t see the infamous moose, elk, goats or bears in the Canadian Rockies. These things simply cannot be scheduled or controlled. This is the real deal, not Audio-Animatronic figures.

So, what is the solution? Instead of worrying about those things beyond one’s control, why not focus on the things that are? Sure, management and staff of the local ski resort can be prepared for complaints about snow conditions that are less than outstanding … and practice appropriate responses to customer complaints. However, I found in Alberta, as I find in all areas I travel and work, some great examples of organizations that had a healthy grip on what they could control, and how they turned that into a competitive advantage. Here are two examples:

1) The hotel where I stayed in Banff had an underground parking lot. Since open, buildable space is at a premium in this area, they did the right thing by building down … and did something else they could control: I found a note on my windshield the next morning that said, “thank you for staying with us, we took the liberty of cleaning your windshield last night so you would enjoy your drive today.” Brilliant.

2) Upon arriving at one of the National Park entrance gates on the highway, the Parks Canada ranger asked me, “Have you had a chance to purchase your Day Pass for the park yet?” What made this especially nice was his choice of words. I was well inside the park at this point, but hadn’t been required to purchase a pass at the first gate, on the previous day. The ranger at this second gate could just as easily have chosen an accusatory tone and said, “You need to buy a pass,” or, “Where’s your pass?” He didn’t, and it set the tone for my four-hour drive along the Icefields Parkway.

It was as if he had reached out and cleaned my windshield.