Avoid the Run Around at Walt Disney World

Avoid the Run Around at Walt Disney World

Anyone can appreciate the challenge of getting the “run around” when it comes to customer service. With Walt Disney World being twice the size of the island of Manhattan, that challenge can be huge. Here are three stories that outline the challenges and also the solutions that help Guests avoid getting the run around at Walt Disney World.

The Monorail is Broken

Lee Cockerell, who wrote the forward of the first edition of our book, Lead With Your Customer, shares the following story. Years ago, Lee was the executive vice president of Walt Disney World when he received a phone call routed through his office assistant. The caller had apparently been transferred numerous times to many people at Disney to attend to his request, but, the situation had not been resolved.

The executive quickly understood why the caller was confused. The accent on the other end of the phone was that of a German man who was trying to get help “fixing the monorail.” The man was trying to get the right part. He had contacted more than 20 people around property to get the part but had been unable to find it.

The situation was initially perplexing. Why was a monorail broken and why were they calling him and every one else for the part he needed? After listening for some time, it became apparent what the problem was. This man had purchased a toy monorail for his grandson, returned to Germany and  discovered that the monorail wasn’t working. The man had made almost 20 calls, but still couldn’t get the part he needed to fix it. Cockerell immediately sent a replacement toy monorail to resolve that particular problem, but another problem remained. Why had this individual’s call been passed on to so many others without being resolved. This created an opportunity to re-look at the internal communications at Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World Toy monorail

Where is Alice in Wonderland?

Suppose your child loves Alice in Wonderland and wants to visit her. Where can you go to see Alice? At Walt Disney World, she could be many places.  Alice could be in a parade or she could be at Epcot or posing in front of the castle at the Magic Kingdom. Alice might also be hosting guests at a character meal in one of the resorts. Where do you go and when is she available to visit with Guests?

Alice in Wonderland greeting a young child in the United Kingdom pavilion at Epcot. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Ask any Cast Member! They have access to a special phone number; the last four digits spell CHIP, as in the rambunctious Disney characters, Chip and Dale. By calling that number, Cast Members can find out where any Disney character may be on any occasion. This not only removes the service runaround, it makes that Cast Member a hero to that family–all because they were armed with the solutions they needed to support the Guest experience.

Of course, Disney has clearly entered into the 21st century like its consumers. So why not put most of the information about where those characters can be found into the hands of guests? Any guest with a smart phone can now locate Alice with a simple click. Here’s what that looks like:

Online Character Meet ‘n’ Greet Schedule.

What Time Does Disney’s Hollywood Studios Close?

You’re visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You’re thinking of going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out the new Slinky Dog coaster attraction. But you’re not sure what time the park closes. You approach a Cast Member whose role is to do face painting in Pandora–The World of Avatar. You ask what is closing time at the Studios.

Imagine that they share the following:

“Sorry…I have no idea, I know the closing times for this park. But I don’t know what it is at the Studios. You might ask at Guest Relations in the front of the park. I’m just a contractor.”

Even if the Cast Member was sincere and courteous, how would you feel about getting that kind of response? How would you feel about the fact that you would have to go all the way to the front of the park to get the answer? How would you feel about someone dismissing their responsibility because they are an outside vendor?

Fortunately, that need not happen. All Cast Members, to include vendors,  are given a Tell-A-Cast. It’s a pocket guide that looks like this:

This guide is a condensed summary of all the happenings throughout every Walt Disney World park. It also includes phone numbers where they can get additional information. They pull a piece of paper from their pocket and tell you that the park closes at 8:00 pm. There’s one for every park, and it gives Cast Members all the answers to the biggest FAQs Guest may ask. It’s one way Cast Members are set up for giving a positive response to Guests when they have a question or concern. And while there is always that same information available electronically, many Cast Members are not always close to a mobile device or to the internet. This simple paper helps to cover the gaps.

By the way, this same information is available to Guests, not just in a robust app available to those with mobile devices, but via @WDWToday, the twitter account for daily updates, questions, and even comments. There you can find what time the parks are open.

@WDWToday Twitter Account.

Souvenirs for Your Organization:

Here are some key points these three stories we shared:

  • How can our products and services contain the labels with the information and FAQs that customers may need?
  • Where can employees call or turn to to get the answer they need? Can you provide that concierge-style service for them?
  • How do you provide FAQs style information in the hands of even people who do not have online access in the moment?
  • How can you provide all of that information electronically, and in the hands of all?
  • Do you have a Twitter feed? How could you utilize social media to respond to your customers?
  • How do we put information in the hands of third party operations who represent us?
  • How do we set the expectation that we must take the responsibility to follow through on calls, rather than passing it off to others?

To learn more about service run arounds visit Performance Journeys where we talk about approaches for being a first responder in situations like this. In the blog World Class Benchmarking, you can see examples of how public sector organizations respond to such situations as this.

I also mentioned that Lead With Your Customer book earlier. It offers many ideas like this. Please pick up your copy! And let us know if you need more support like this back in your organization. Just contact us for support you need to create a great Guest experience.

J. Jeff Kober

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