ALA Part III: Customer Service Disney Style

Saturday morning I had the privilege to hear Bruce Kimbrell from the Disney Institute speak about customer service. Soft-spoken and pleasant mannered, Bruce has a great sense of humor that can liven yet put any audience at ease.

Some notes that I took during the session:

  • The front-line is the bottom line.
  • When you find out what a customer’s “wow” moment was, make sure to share that with other employees and celebrate it with the employee who provided it.
  • The most common comments Disney receives are not about how great the rides are, but how clean the parks are and how friendly the employees are.
  • The most common question from customers, “What time is the three o’clock parade?”
  • Customers can feel perfection even if they can’t see it (for example, eyelashes on the figures on a ride)
  • Disney 2.0 – “Pal Mickeys” interactive GPS Mickey dolls that kids can take around the park. They talk and give you tips about where to go, when to go, and what to do. If kids accidentally leave them at the hotel the maids pose the dolls in interesting places. Then kids started purposefully leaving them in the rooms to “have fun.” This costs nothing, but adds that extra special touch and helps to make it a magical experience.
  • A lot of what we sell is intangible – same in libraries
  • 18% turnover rate
  • At Disneyland there are 24 unions! Yikes!
  • One of the keys to customer service is holding staff accountable. Make them aware of what is expected prior to hiring and during orientation.
  • Separate on-stage presence from back-stage presence to maintain the setting. Snow White may smoke and fight with her boyfriend but not when she is “on-stage.”
  • Safety is not negotiable.
  • When you have to say no, turn it into a wow moment. At Disney if a child waits in line for a ride only to find he is not tall enough for the ride, he is presented with a certificate that allows him and his family to go immediately to the front of the line when he is tall enough. A potentially bad moment turned into a wow moment.
  • Every face to face interaction is a moment of truth. If a customer interacts with 60 cast members per day there are 60 moments of truth. If there are 59 great moments and 1 bad, which do you think the customer will remember? We need all moments of truth to be great.
  • First and last interaction at Disney is parking. Another three o’clock question, “Where did I park my car?” If a customer forgets where he or she parked the car Disney staff can locate it based on arrival time (stamped on ticket) they put the family on a golf car and locate and take the customer and family to the car. (Now this is process improvement!)
  • Continuously improve the process. Training/learning/improving never ends. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. :)

Going back to the “three o’clock question.” I think this is a key area for improving customer service within libraries. As Bruce pointed out, we all have three o’clock questions. Identify them. Then come up with a response or better solution. You are not going to stop the three o’clock questions so you need to find a way to handle them with finesse. Disney was not going to stop the question, “Dude where’s my car?” So instead they created a solution.

So what are some three o’clock questions in libraries?

  • Do you have any books?
  • Can I use the computer?
  • How do I get my print outs?
  • Why do I have these fines?
  • Where is the restroom?
  • What time do you close?

I remember when we first installed our PC Reservation and print management software. There were days when I felt like I could bang my head against the wall if one more patron asked me how to set up a print account. Yes it is tedious. Yes there are a lot of steps. Yes I must have went through the steps over 100 times a day for a few months (or at least it felt like that many). BUT…nearly each time it was the customer’s first interaction with the system. This was my chance to offer a “wow” moment to that customer.

We have to find a way to turn three o’clock questions into wow moments because the three o’clock questions are the easy ones. These are the questions we can prepare for.

After the session I introduced myself to Bruce and told him about one of my new roles in our library with leading a team that will create a standard for customer service and provide training. I asked Bruce if he had any book recommendations to get me started. He offered to send me the book Be Our Guest written by staff at the Disney Institute. My first day back from ALA guess what was waiting on my desk?

Waiting on my desk this morning...

A true Disney fan I also had to get a picture with Bruce. If you look closely can you see what kind of watch I’m wearing in the picture?

Me and Bruce from Disney Institute

I got that watch nine years ago on my honeymoon at Disney World. I still wear it nearly every day to remember the great time we had. The level of service Disney provides is something we should all aspire to. In the age of Google and Twitter the human touch we provide to our patrons/customers is where we can truly stand apart from the competition.

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.

1 comments
K Sakamoto
K Sakamoto

I would hold off on incorporating any Disney rules of customer service into your library. Actions speak louder than words. I just came back from Disney California Adventure Park (July 19) and staff and management do not follow these rules. I was basically told to "shut up and like it" or don't patron us. "No" was not a magical experience for me. As a former Disney shareholder and original member of the WDCC (Walt Disney Classic Collector), all members in my immediate family are premium annual passholders. I was a BIG Disney junkie... Until I started going to Disneyland more frequently. Good customer service experiences that I've encountered recently were at Wachovia and Claim Jumper restaurant. Disneyland has the problem of being a victim of its own success. As a father, I have to go there. As a customer, I hope to see them go down ala Indymac Bank (another organization with poor customer service). Probably will never happen in my lifetime, but dreams do come true at Disneyland. Good luck in your endeavors and check the web - there are more of these bad customer service stories than you might think.

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  1. [...] Reed of Library Trainer shares her thoughts about customer service in the library. She got inspired by the Disney-Style customer service. Well, yeah, of the more important places to [...]

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