Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Customers Rock! Disney Style: Exceeding Customer Expectations

Posted by Becky Carroll on November 16, 2007

mom-and-mickey.jpg When I was visiting Disney World recently, I had a great experience with the Disney tours.  We can all learn something about the importance of customer relations from this story, in addition to lessons about employee empowerment.

The Question

I was on my own for one day in the Magic Kingdom before my conference started.  Inspired by C.B. Whittemore’s great overview of some of the key areas shown in a “behind the scenes” tour(detailed in her blog Flooring the Consumer), I decided to see if I could take one while I was there.  I went to Guest Relations at City Hall and asked if there was room on their Keys to the Kingdom tour.  All 20 spots were already booked up, but the very friendly person at Guest Relations suggested I wait and see if a spot might open up (people get sick, etc).  For the next 30 minutes, I stood quietly in the Guest Relations office, chatting casually with the Cast Members (Disney term for employees), and keeping my fingers crossed (it was raining buckets, so I was hopeful).

The Surprise Answer

Five minutes before the tour was to begin, one of the Cast Members came out and told me I was on the tour.  “Did someone cancel?”, I asked.  “No.  You have been so good about waiting patiently, we decided we could make our tour 21 people today.”  I was thrilled!  But wait – there’s more to the story.  The Cast Member continued:

“And, since you have been such a good sport about this, and you have been so polite to us, we are bringing you on the tour compliments of Disney.  What would you like for lunch – it’s included!”

Wow, I was totally impressed!  This was a $60 tour, and these Cast Members had been empowered to give it to me for free.  My expectations were wildly exceeded, and I have been raving about the tour ever since.    This was truly surprise and delight for me.  I was thrilled to go on the tour, but to give it to me for free was amazing.  I was indeed floored.

The Tour

My tour guide, Mark, did a fabulous job, and I spent 5 hours engrossed in the stories he was telling and gawking at the sites I got to see: behind the scenes where they keep the parade floats, the giant water tank that makes up Splash Mountain, the Pirates of the Caribbean building (from the outside of it), the impressive garbage collection system (where they sort trash by hand), some of the characters before they go “on stage” in their prep area, and the amazing “utilidor”, or employee tunnel system that runs under the entire park.  We also got to go on 3 rides accompanied by our guide who shared some of the “secrets” behind them.  Very cool!

The Lessons

There are lessons here both for customers as well as for companies.

Customers: There is never any need to get overly upset when the answer is “no”.  Being polite and treating others with respect is the best way to get what you are hoping for.  Customer service reps are people, too – and sometimes, their hands truly are tied.  Other times, like at Disney World, they are empowered to “make your dreams come true”.

Companies: How are you empowering your employees to surprise and delight your customers?  It makes the customer feel great, and the employee also feels great about how they can help a customer.  It doesn’t always have to be about giving things away for free.  It is most often the little things that make a difference – like taking one more person on a tour, or sending a thank-you note.  A big smile really helps, too!

For more conversations about surprise, check out Andy Nulman’s blog, Pow! Right Between the Eyes!  You’ll be glad you did.

Related posts:

Designing the Disney Experience

Little things make a difference for customers

More little things that make a difference


19 Responses to “Customers Rock! Disney Style: Exceeding Customer Expectations”

  1. Scott said

    What a great story and a great lesson.

  2. Thanks, Scott. Glad to see you here again. Your comment means a lot coming from someone who used to work for Disney! What did you do there? 😉

    By the way, I love your website under “Company”; great approach to encouraging your employees. You rock!

  3. Brandon M said

    I came from a retail background and you’re right, a good attitude and a smile can go a long way. People now days are alot of times short or rude to people in customer service position, those who stand out as being nice people do get rewarded for it.

  4. Brandon M, thank you very much for your comment! Those of us who have been in retail know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a grumpy customer. It takes two to build a relationship, and customers are less likely to say goodbye to a person than they are to a faceless company.

  5. Becky, what a great story! and what a great behind-the-scenes tour you took part in. We did not get to see the trash or the floats… One of these days, I’d love to do Disney with you.

  6. C.B., I actually was inspired to do this because of your discussion of the Disney Institute! I would love to attend one of those sessions.

    Just let me know which Disney park(s) you want to do – California, Florida, ?? – and I will be there. We would have an absolute blast!! 🙂

  7. Wes said

    Singapore could learn a lot from Disney,
    The Service is terrible, the shop staff are generally rude.
    I agree, my trips to Disneyland Paris, HongKong they made us feel really welcome.
    My goal is to vist every Disney park in the World, (2 more to go at this stage)

  8. Doug said

    That is a terrific “wow” story if I ever heard one! Disney is a great place and from what I’ve read, a very well run company (at least the theme parks).

  9. That was a great story Becky, but more importantly the lessons learned are the type of simple ideas that go a long way. Having seen both sides of things (as a customer and customer relationship manager), there was nothing better at either side, than seeing a happy and polite customer being satisfied by a happy polite employee who felt great about being able to really help somebody.

    Customers rock! and good companies can rock too!

  10. Brandon said

    Great post and solid comments all the way around. Over the next month, we will see oh-so-much of the “I just work here” customer dis-service as we shop for and enjoy the holidays.

    Even so, I promise you that if you pay careful attention, you WILL see Customer Service Gurus everywhere. They may be camouflaged among their teammates, but they are there. And always will be, because they take pride in their interactions. If you are hiring, this is a great time to find great help, they really stand out among the rest. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  11. Exceptional Customer Experiences

    Another story of a great customer experience… what can you do to help your agents “WOW” customers?

  12. What a great story. I can’t even tell you how many “freebies” and extras we have received at Disney simply by being polite. It seems so many people at WDW are rude and crass and have empowered themselves with this “I’m on vacation what are you gonna do for me” attitude-or worse. We have seen it so many times. From free ice cream for my 4 year old son to free food in the restaurants to all the fastpasses we could use for the day, all it takes is the simple act of recognition of the cast members hard work and politeness. Three simple words will change your disney (and life) experience: hello, please, and thank you. Bonus points for “how are you!”

  13. Becky,

    I love this story! I never knew that you could take a tour like that. Even as a little girl I noticed how friendly the employees were and how clean Disney Land is 😉

    Thanks for sharing this at the Customer Service Carnivale!

  14. Thanks for mentioning me and Surprise Central, Becky. What an honor it is to be top of your mind when you think of positive Surprises.


  15. Wes, it is interesting to see how customer service differs (or not) across the parks. I have now been to all the Disney parks except for the one in Hong Kong. Keep us posted on your progress!

    Thanks for your comment, Doug. I know from my tour that the parks have to be well-run in order to accommodate the kinds of crowds they get – and to treat guests so well.

    German, great to see you here all the way from Rady School of Business at UCSD! 🙂 It is a great employee morale-booster to be able to make customers happy. I think my experience made those Disney cast members feel thrilled.

    Brandon, you are right, too many of the “temporary help” are not folks with the right customer attitude. They are out there, though!

    Envision team, thanks for chiming in. It is great to have others around evangelizing this attitude.

    Typestries, thank you for sharing your stories brought on by a positive outlook. People are more likely to do things for others when they are treated with respect! As long as we don’t start expecting wonderful things all the time from Disney and its cast members… I think there is potential for customer expecations to be so high that Disney won’t be able to meet them. Thanks again! 🙂

    Maria, you are right – even kids notice this kind of outstanding customer service. Pleased to be part of your fun Carnivale!

    Andy, of course you are top of mind – who else? 😉

  16. MOUSE LOVER said

    I willnot leave my name due to the medical privacy act. my husband and I and our son are truly disney fanatics. we visited WDW twice last year. zwe stayed at one of their resortslast september. We had a fABULOUS TIME. but 1and-a-half days after we arrived home. I suffered a massive stroke at the age of 41.It left my left side paralyzed and unable to continue my profession as a stenographer. while I was in in-patient re-hab for 2 months I would always see your commercial. The year of a million dreams. So it has left kind of a sour feeling. And now not being able to work and surviving on social security disability,I don’t believe my husband and I will ever be able to afford going ever again. We have been on 2 disney cruises and totally loved them.I know my health condition was not wdw’s fault. butI hope one day to experience the magic again. Have a magical day. Mouselover

  17. Mouse Lover, sorry to hear about your health. Glad you enjoyed Disney so much, and thanks for sharing your story. (BTW, I am not affiliated with Disney in any way.)

  18. Caroline Wideman said

    Our Disney experience was far from happy. In seven hours, we were only able to participate in 4 things that did not involve either shopping or eating.

    I have never seen so many stores in my life! It took quite awhile before we could even find an actual attraction. Then we were told that all of the fast passes were sold out. We thought that visiting on a Thursday afternoon in October would mean no crowds. Boy, were we wrong. I couldn’t convince the kids to wait in line for 70, 80 and 90 minutes. So they weren’t able to do anything that they really wanted to do, so we settled for anything with “only” a 20 minute wait. They should have paid me to go. I guess they make more money selling stuff if people are just standing around waiting all of the time.

    After returned to the Toy Story attraction for the 5th time, I asked if there was anywhere I could complain and they just looked at me as though I were crazy and said “no”

    SeaWorld was expensive too, but at least we got to do, see and touch stuff. I feel like we got our money’s worth and I would go back anytime. Disney was just a big money grab. Even the taxis have to pay $14 admission just to drop you off and pick you up! Heck, Obama could fund his whole health care package with Disney Revenue.

  19. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog aand I am inspired!
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