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Carousel of Customer Service

By Gail Z. Martin

We’re big Disney fans in my household, and usually, Disney is synonymous with exceptional customer service.  That’s one of the expectations with a Disney vacation—all of the usual hang-ups and headaches that come with traveling, hotels, etc. just don’t happen when you’re with the Mouse.

We forget that even Disney employees are human, and one of them provided a real case study in customer service on a recent trip.

We were on the Carousel of Progress, a moving theater where the audience’s seats move around a stationary core with an audioanimatronic show.  We had barely gotten started, when a voice came over the loud speaker telling everyone to stay in their seats, that it was not OK to leave the theater.  Now on this ride, there are four audience sections that are divided so they can’t see each other.  No one in our section had moved.  We’d been yelled at, but no one knew why.

The ride stared up again, but a few minutes later, the same voice came one again.  It was uncomfortably loud, and he was telling everyone to get back in their seats and sit down in a voice that was more first-grade teacher than entertainment employee. No one in our section had moved, so we were looking at each other wondering what was going on.  This time, we had to sit through one part of the show twice because apparently, someone somewhere was misbehaving.

This kept happening until it got to the point where the guy on the PA system was totally strung out, shouting at adults to get back in their seats, threatening all kinds of things if everyone didn’t listen.  Now, people in our section (who hadn’t gotten to see any of the show uninterrupted) were getting up to leave.  Kids were crying because the announcements were painfully loud.

What went wrong?  For one thing, the guy on the PA didn’t make it clear up front that this attraction was different from all the other Disney theaters, where the live host actually invites people who have to leave to just quietly find an exit.  Because the audience section moved, having people leave caused a safety problem, but first-time guests wouldn’t know that.

Secondly, the host forgot that we were his guests, not his subjects, or its kids.  Instead of just stopping and offering to let everyone out who wanted out, he tried to force a largely adult group to stay in their seats like children.  He forgot that it was our vacation, and he was there to make it enjoyable.

And third, he lost his cool—big time.  By the end of it, he was shrieking at us over the PA system like a stressed out parent about to go postal.  He’d gone from ordering us to threatening us, to shouting us into submission.  He forgot that he worked for us.  Our admission tickets paid his salary. But he also tried to control something he couldn’t—the actions of other adults—by force.  Had he explained the safety issue, and given people a chance to leave if they wanted to, odds are that the rest of the show would have gone smoothly.  Instead, it became a show no one will ever forget (and from the line of people who gathered afterwards and demanded to see his supervisor, I don’t think he’ll forget it either).

The moral of the story—lead, don’t force, and always remember to serve your customer

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