By Paul Reilly

Walt Disney was a fanatical innovator. In the 1940’s, Walt created a term that became synonymous with improvement and enhancement—plussing. Walt was obsessed with plussing the customer experience.

In Pat Williams’ book, How to Be Like Walt, plussing means to give your customers more than they paid for, more than they expect, more than you have to give them. Walt applied plussing to his movies, theme parks, and even scooping ice cream. When Walt visited theme parks, he would occasionally help serve guests. According to one employee, when Walt scooped ice cream for guests, he always gave the biggest scoops. Walt would do more and give more to exceed expectations throughout the entire experience.

Are you plussing your customer experience?

Too often, salespeople (and companies) look for shortcuts and ways to do the bare minimum. Companies create a mediocre experience to barely satisfy their customers’ basic needs. It seems today’s goal is to do just enough to avoid customer complaints. What kind of service is that?

Another common service mantra is to “under-promise and over-deliver.” This phrase is one of the most damaging cliches in business. The insidious problem with under-promising is that, eventually, you are going to live down to the promises you make. You end up giving less because you’ve always promised less.

Today’s customer service benchmark is a mediocrity. Customers are frustrated, employees are frustrated, and the overall customer service experience is suffering. But there is hope. This new mediocre benchmark has created an opportunity. With service dwindling, it’s easier to stand out and shine in this dim service world.

In Value-Added Selling, the term plussing is called tinkering. Tinkering is about tweaking and improving the customer experience. Tinkering requires an insatiable desire to improve. Tinkering means you step outside your comfort zone and explore new ways to create value for the customer.

You can only tinker if you challenge yourself. Disney looked for ways to improve. And if his desired outcome wasn’t possible with the current technology, Disney created it. He did so with stereophonic sound and the multiplane camera. Disney is responsible for several advancements in film making and theme parks—all stemming from his desire to improve.

I’ll often facilitate brainstorming sessions on improving the customer experience. I’m always shocked at how often business leaders scoff at employee suggestions, claiming their ideas are not possible. Impossible is often a convenient excuse to avoid change that is painful, capital intense, and risky. Be willing to take risks to improve—invest to grow.

From Walt’s perspective, plussing includes subtracting. Walt was ruthless in the editing room and walking the park. He unapologetically cut parts of movie plots and areas of the theme park. He understood intuitively that you can do more with less. How can your company do more with less? How can you reduce touch points in your experience? Do more of that which adds value and less of that which adds little or no value. Cost without value diminishes you in the marketplace.

Walt Disney famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in this world.” Imagine the power of applying that same ideal to your customer experience. New years are often filled with new resolutions. As you begin this year, tinker with your solution. Find a way to give more, serve more, and solve more problems. Focus on making a difference in your customers’ business.