“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney
As an American who calls Australia home now, I have to be a little careful about my ongoing complaints about service levels in this country and the desperate need for improvement in many cases. I’ve lived here nearly 20 years and it only takes a trip back to the US to ignite my passion about this subject. Before you tell me to go back to America, I have an experience to share with you.
The Magic that is Disneyland
I visited the US at Christmastime and my husband and I took our two young children to Disneyland after catching up with family. I have never had a better service experience in my life. All businesses, Australian and American alike, have much to learn from how Disneyland operates. We had a few incidents that had the potential to ruin (or at least dampen) our holiday, but the Disneyland staff turned them around 180 degrees into a positive. Let me explain.
Incident 1: The Hurl
After a ride, my 5-year-old son was complaining about a sore tummy. However, being a staunch Star Wars fan, he was keen to do the “Jedi Training” which was due to begin shortly. My husband took him to get a seat in front of the stage and I took my daughter to get some food to bring back for us all. When I arrived back to the stage area, I noticed that the crowd had cleared in one section and there was a man with a mop cleaning. I had a feeling of dread. Sure enough, it was my child who had been sick all over himself, daddy and the venue.
Cast Member – Jimmy:
Jimmy, a staff member of Disneyland (btw Disneyland calls their staff members “cast members”), came over to check on us and after wracking his brain about how he could help us, he gave us vouchers for new clothes for my son AND husband to be used in ANY store in Disneyland. He also said that if my son wanted to come back to do the Jedi training later that they would look after him. And they did. We came back two days later and the organisers chose him out of hundreds of kids to fight Darth Vader on the stage. He was jumping out of his skin! He is still talking about this.
Incident 2: Missing Our Flight Home (nearly)
We had pre-booked the shuttle from the Disneyland Hotel to LAX at 7pm for a 10pm flight. After a frenzied rush, we arrived at the pickup point at exactly 7:01pm. No shuttle. 7:30: no shuttle. We were in the middle of a large car park with 12 suitcases in the rain, waiting, waiting. I called the shuttle company and they informed me the driver left at 7pm and that there won’t be another one until at least 8pm, maybe later. Too late for us. I was getting anxious at this point. It’s not easy traveling with young kids in the best of times.
Cast Member – Ken:
Ken from Disneyland Hotel magically appeared in the car park to try to assist. He promptly organised a (very large) taxi for us and gave me a $150 credit on my credit card that was on file with the hotel (I didn’t even have to give my card or go back into the hotel to process). All this transpired within ten minutes. We made it to the airport very quickly and on time for our flight.
Yeah, But It Wasn’t Disneyland’s (or insert business name here) Fault!
The interesting point with these experiences is it wasn’t about whose “fault” it was. My son was sick. We missed our shuttle. It certainly wasn’t Disneyland’s fault. But Disneyland makes it about the “experience” and if something happens (regardless of whose fault it is) that may impact negatively on the experience, they take responsibility for it and make it their business. They want to ensure you have a great experience, full stop. They don’t just leave you to deal with it. Clever clever clever – especially in this day of social media, blogs, etc. Every customer now has the potential to tell the world very easily about their experience with your company or product. Smart businesses will make it their business to ensure customers have a great experience. It WILL come back to them by generating more business. I will go back to Disneyland. But more importantly, I will rave about how great they were to me when they didn’t HAVE to be. The ROI is impossible to calculate on this. I believe Australian businesses have a wonderful opportunity to lift the bar and offer exceptional service and certainly the ones that do this will stand out and rocket to success.
Based on Disneyland’s model, here are some TIPS for offering better service:
- Give all staff members proper authority to assist customers, including a budget to be used at their discretion. There is nothing more annoying than having to wait for a higher authority to deal with a problem (for both the staff member AND the customer).
- Survey your customers about what it is that bugs them about your product or service procedures. Too often businesses only see things from their own side. As a customer, how many times do you hear “our policy is x” (when you are trying to get “y”)? It doesn’t have to mean changing complete systems though. It could be a small annoyance that is easily handled like fixing a navigation problem on your website. The important thing is to get outside of your own business and hear other viewpoints.
- If you can, solve your customer’s problem, regardless of whose “fault” it is.
- Make your customers feel special. Create a culture of “caring” in your business.
Do you have an exceptional service story? Tips on how to offer better service?