Bay Lake Towers 10th Anniversary: DVC Service Opportunities

Bay Lake Towers 10th Anniversary: DVC Service Opportunities

This Sunday Bay Lake Towers (BLT) will experience its tenth anniversary. There’s much to like about this particular location at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s amazing views of Magic Kingdom make it an extremely popular Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort. Some of Disney’s most loyal, most passionate fans have paid a premium to own points at this resort.

Original Contemporary wing being leveled out to make room for Bay Lake Towers. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I’d like to share a letter from a colleague–a former client in the Federal workforce who has come to me for customer service and leadership training. He and his family enjoys visiting and bringing their children and grandchildren to Walt Disney World. They are DVC Members. Because of my writings and insights, they shared the following experience with me. Note that not one issue mentioned is a “big deal”. But look at how the whole of it tiers up to really disrupting pixie dust of Walt Disney World stay.

“The BLT is our home DVC.  We like the location and the layout of the hotel.  We became DVC members over 7 years ago.  

“This time however was a dent into the magic that has been the experience for us.  It appeared that Customer Service and attention to detail was waning.  It started with Bell Services.  Not sure if these folks are outsourced or just having a bad day because it was the week of the 4th of July, but they were short and sarcastic.  Members of our party experienced shortness and abruptness from the bell services staff — not the usual welcome and stickers for the kids upon arriving at the doors of BLT.  

“On two separate occasions we found the attention to detail lacking.  A patron had ordered room service and ate at the pool.  The plates were placed in the corner next to the bar and sat there for several days.  When I approached a cast member about it he told me that it wasn’t his job, but the dining folks.  I challenged him for not being proactive and he assured me that he would take care of it.  Wonder what Walt would have said or reacted consider he got on operators of the Jungle Cruise for not providing the required time for the ride.  Must be a dining services issue because the same lack of cleanliness and attention to detail occurred outside our room, when room service dishes were left outside our door of a neighboring room for several days before they were taken away.  Again lack of attention to detail.  

Why spend serious money on designer carpets, only to leave trays of food on them for days at a time? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

“We visited the 16th floor and ordered one of their signatures drinks – Bay Lake Sunset.  The bartender left out an important ingredient –  Pineapple juice.  When our server took it back to him, all he did was poor some juice into the drink he previously served.  We were told that he was new.  However, shouldn’t the bartender know how to make an establishment’s signature drink.  Again poor attention to detail and not “leading with your customer.” 

An image by Disney in the hallways reminding guests why they stay at Bay Lake Towers.

“Not to be outdone there’s the Wave.  Great food. We ate BF and dinner there.  The first night we had a party of 11. Please understand this is a big party.  However, it is customary to dine as a family and not piecemeal. Dinners were coming out haphazard.  The server provided a lame excuse. I asked for the manager he agreed and apologized. Offered us dessert.  The kicker came when we ate there the last night of our stay. We were seated on the far end with a party of 10 at a seating that really accommodated eight. We asked if we could pull another table over to meet our party’s needs. The response from the server was that it couldn’t be done. The only option was to move the entire party back to the front of the restaurant and wait for another table set to be made available. Once again we had to summon the manager (different one).  Her lame excuse was that she couldn’t simply move an extra table without affecting the servers getting their assigned portion of tables.  In the end it was remedied by bringing over an extra table which could have been done if servers had just been empowered in the first place.

The Wave entrance. It’s about the total experience, not just when you enter. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Guest Experience Failures

The letter goes on a little longer, but you get a sense. Let’s summarize some of the issues here:

  1. There should not be a “difference” in the service behavior of someone who is an employee and an employee who is a contractor or is part of an operating partnership with the company.
  2. In a world where Cast Members are taught “We Create Happiness” and “Everyone Picks Up Trash” someone has come to another mental frame that says “It’s Not My Job.” Not acceptable–anytime, anywhere.
  3. It is a process failure when something like dishes sit in a corner and are not rounded up on a frequent basis and carried back to the kitchen. It’s a leadership failure when it goes several days and no one has done anything about it. Leaders should walk every corridor daily.
  4. If a new Cast Member doesn’t know/remember how to make the house’s signature drink, then one begins to wonder what else the new Cast Member doesn’t know/remember. Training should be management’s first priority.
  5. A server assignment should not trump providing a great guest experience. Employees should be empowered to deal with processes and procedures so managers don’t have to step in.
  6. If a guest points out something that isn’t right, it may be because they are so passionate about the product/service/experience, that they don’t want to see it fail.
At Disney, “Everything Speaks”. What is the message this simple towel bin is communicating?

I should especially note, this family isn’t taking the time to write out their comments because they’re looking for some service recovery out of management. They don’t want a plate of chocolate covered strawberries delivered to their room or a free meal somewhere. What they want is a superb guest experience, and they are willing to pay a premium to receive it. What is critical is for management to “ensure” a great experience, not “make up” for it it when it falls through the cracks.

Moving Beyond a 10th Anniversary

If guests sometimes act like they “own the place” by their comments, it’s because through a point purchase, as DVC owners they “own the place”–or at least the time to enjoy continual stays. Don’t fight that sentiment in them. Rather, exceed their expectations and make them proud to be DVC owners.

Families who want to remember Bay Lake Towers as their home. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I think this family and the thousands of other DVC owners want to enjoy Bay Lake Tower and the other DVC properties for years to come. For them, it’s an intergenerational thing, a way of passing a “torch” of something they deeply love to their children and grandchildren. They simply want to take pride in the privilege of being a part of the Disney magic. When they bring friends and family members to experience what they love, they are frankly embarrassed when it falls short. In truth, most Cast Members want it for them as well. But experiences like the ones mentioned need to be addressed.

Souvenirs for Your Organization

In truth, there is something to be learned from this experience for every organization–even if you’re not in the hotel business. consider the following to be souvenirs you can take away:

  • Make sure that the service level is seamless, whether it’s delivered by your own employees or by outside contractors/partners.
  • Create processes that make sure you deliver a consistently high service experience.
  • Make sure you, as a management, are walking through the operation. Get out from your office and get into the trench every day.
  • Make training a priority. Don’t just “assume” your employees know what they need to do.
  • Empower your employees to do what’s necessary to create a great customer experience. Don’t let rules/policies/procedures get in the way.
  • And make sure those rules/policies/procedures are designed to make it easier for your customer to do business with you.

Here are some additional souvenir in the form of other posts that could inform your ability to lead a great customer experience.

  1. Do you know who created the Grand Canyon Mural? It’s the grand centerpiece of the resort. The answer to the question is maybe different than you expect. There’s a great story in it.
  2. What Disney Learned From Marriott, is a little known story about how the Disney resorts almost all became Marriott resorts.
  3. Lessons From the Top of the World and Savi’s Lightsabers. What does the new lightsaber experience at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge teach us about uncharged events at Top of the World?

Want more? May I suggest The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. It’s a great read, and it emphasizes what a customer experience should look like not just at Disney, but in any organization trying to create such. Check it out today!

2nd Edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service by J. Jeff Kober.
2nd Edition of The Wonderful World of Customer Service by J. Jeff Kober.

J. Jeff Kober

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