Julius Duncan's Blog

Brands for a social age

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Disney – where customer service dreams come true

I’ve been lucky enough to escape the chilly British ‘Spring’ with a visit to Florida over the past week or so, and as the owner of two young children the mandatory trip to Disney World was required.

Disney parade with Pluto!

Disney parade with Pluto!

Having experienced six different theme parks and water parks in a week we are now Disney World veterans. The entertainment experience comes in an assortment of guises – Space Mountain (exhilarating), Star Tours (immersive), Electric Parade (enchanting), Shark Swim (refreshing), and Indiana Jones Stunt Show (revealing). I have to take my hat off to Disney for the investment in content and storytelling details for just about every attraction (material for many posts!).

Consistent across every experience however is the quality of customer service. It is a cut above even the U.S’s usual high standards, and is an integral part of the Disney ‘magic’. So what sets it apart? Having had the chance to reflect on it for a couple of days I think it comes down to the following.

1. Broad ownership

Everyone at Disney takes responsibility for delivering great customer service. While there are Guest Services specialists, the idea that they are the only team to look after customer experience would be laughable. Whoever we spoke to with a specific customer service request was always ready to commit time and genuine effort to resolving the issue. It was clear that all ‘Cast Members’ (as Disney staff are known), have been empowered and trained to take personal responsibility for the customer experience.

 2. Broad and deep knowledge

Product knowledge levels amongst the cast are impressive and comprehensive. Regularly a Cast Member would be able to provide detailed information and advice about an attraction on the far side of a vast park, and answer more obscure questions. There was no ‘that’s not in my department’ mentality, and first time resolution was the norm.

3. Coverage

There are lots of Cast Members available, and these people are diverse in terms of nationality, gender and age. This provides coverage in two senses. Firstly, a density of staff numbers to allow rapid access, and secondly a wide-spread of individuals to mirror the diverse guest profile. For example, there was a higher than usual number of older Cast Members greeting guests at main park entrances, which provided a reassuring and familiar environment for families and young children used to grandparents. Another neat touch is that every name badge says where the Cast Member hails from, providing a cosmopolitan flavor and indicating language skills.

4. Empowerment

There is a sensible degree of empowerment for Cast Members to take small operational decisions that assist the customer experience. Personal examples were – a no quibble provision of a new locker at a water-park after a key went missing, and slightly early access to rides on the Fast Pass system. It was a pleasure to have these issues resolved immediately with no need for escalation to a supervisor, and this added to the positive perception of the Disney brand.

5. Tools to do the job

Disney invests heavily in its infrastructure. Aspects that particularly caught my eye were the smart card and finger-print scanning entry points, and the monorail system at Magic Kingdom that could service a small city! The modern and well maintained systems and infrastructure provides the canvas on which Cast Members deliver great customer service.

6. Proactive problem solving

Disney is good at providing information and services that pre-empt and prevent common problems. For example the issue of guests forgetting where they have parked in the vast car parks is addressed by a memorable parking space naming system, and constant reminders to record your car’s location. Similarly, for faster rides audio messages are played during the approach to the start point to prepare nervous riders and prevent mis-use and injuries.

The Disney experience can be hectic, but thanks in no small part to the on the ground customer service is also a magical one. At the same time Disney is beginning to extend this approach into the digital space with its ‘My Disney Experience’ iPhone and Android App that accesses park details in real-time.

There is a lot to admire here. Any brand adopting some or all of Disney’s customer service approach has the potential to generate increased loyalty, repeat business and advocacy.

For brands that are also considering customer service via social media there are plenty of useful and practical tips in this white paper.

As ever, I would love to have your comments.

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