Until a Problem Occurs, the Guest Doesn’t Get to See You Fully Strut Your Service

Does your approach to Guest Experiences include an effective problem resolution process?

Service breakdowns and other problems experienced by Guests are crucial moments in an organization’s attempt to establish a relationship with someone. It only stands to reason, then, that solving these problems will have a potentially outsized impact on your organization’s success. That’s why you need an effective problem resolution process.

There’s no better way to illustrate this than a personal experience that just happened with my wife:

guest service bell

A Positive Disappointment

My wife travels often in her business, mostly to the same cities, staying in the same hotels, and eating in a lot of the same restaurants. This week she was out of town most of the week – including her birthday.

While I had made special birthday plans for her later (it will be very evident what those are!), I also wanted to make her birthday a little special. I had hidden cards, snacks, and magazines she likes but never gets to read in her suitcase and briefcase; she enjoyed finding them.

She stays at the same hotel for several days each month, and has for several years, always talking about how good they are when it comes to guest services. I thought I would talk to the staff there to see what kind of special birthday treat they could arrange. I was not asking for a freebie, just their help in arranging it.

Tuesday, the morning of her birthday, while she was flying to her destination, I called the hotel staff and talked to the Guest Services director. She recognized my wife as a regular guest and seemed to know who she was. We agreed on an appropriate surprise, and I was assured it would be delivered to my wife upon her arrival after a full day of meetings and site inspections. And, by the way, it was compliments of the hotel.

In the mid-afternoon, someone from the food/beverage staff called, confirming the arrangements. Everything was ready to go.

Except the birthday treat wasn’t delivered on her birthday.

Or the next day.

Or the next day.

At the end of the second day, unable to contain my curiosity, I asked her if she had received anything unusual in her room. “No,” she replied, adding, “As a matter of fact, my room had not been serviced so I called down to ask for more towels and bath supplies, and they didn’t deliver them as promised. I had to go down and ask for them in person. And they never cleaned my room while I was here.”

Strike One, Two, and Three all in one swing.

While my wife doesn’t share my Guest Experience passion with quite the same enthusiasm as I do, she is very attuned to it and decided to wait until checkout to bring the matter up.

At checkout, she brought up all the misses with the front desk: the failed birthday treat, the missing supplies, and the lack of cleaning of the room. With an apology, the front desk clerk said she would let the manager know.

On the way to the airport, my wife received a very polite and apologetic email from the General Manager of the property, with the following actions:

  • Thanks for being a regular guest
  • Acknowledging my wife’s status in their rewards program
  • Acknowledging the plans their staff had worked out with me in advance
  • Detailing, by position, where they dropped the ball on the treat
  • Acknowledging that the failure to clean was inexcusable
  • Acknowledging that having to come down in person was inexcusable
  • Apologizing for the three misses
  • Stating that she had addressed, personally, the misses with the staff and supervisors involved
  • Acknowledging how valuable my wife’s business and loyalty to their hotel was
  • Applying a generous rewards bonus to my wife’s account
  • Stating the hotel chain’s and her pride in delivering great service to guests
  • Apologizing again for the three misses
  • Requesting that my wife notify her personally the next time she is a guest so the GM can make sure the experience is 100%
  • Thanking my wife again for her business and wishing her a good weekend

I would call those actions an effective problem resolution process.

Effective, in this case, is measured by whether Guest satisfaction has been restored. In my wife’s case, it was. She’s looking forward to returning to the hotel next month.

Effective Problem Resolution can be challenging, but is well worth the effort. Hospitality studies have shown that when you resolve a service problem effectively, the Guest is more likely to become loyal than if she had never run into a problem in the first place.

Because until a problem occurs, the Guest doesn’t really get to see you fully strut your service.

(effective problem resolution process inspired by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon’s book Exceptional Service, Execptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five Star Customer Organization)


Walt Disney’s Vision for Guest Experience

Cinderella’s Castle is beautiful from every angle…

Cinderella Castle2013

…but the most interesting view is underneath.

Deep underneath Cinderella’s castle in the middle of the Magic Kingdom is a utility corridor running from Main Street Square to Fantasyland. There is also a circular corridor running around the circumference of the Magic Kingdom. Though it gives the appearance of a tunnel, and many Cast Members call it a tunnel, these long passageways are really corridors, built on ground level and then covered over with 5 million square yards of dirt and sand dredged to create all the beautiful water features you see around the park. The visible park you see is really the second story of the park – but that’s really another story.

I recently spent 2 days in Walt Disney World, one of them being part of a Backstage Magic tour – behind the scenes, if you will, of all four theme parks in Walt Disney World. I will be recounting many stories from my time there in the days ahead, but there is no better way to start them than this:

Imagine, if you will, a long central corridor where almost all Magic Kingdom Cast Members pass through in their work at the park. To one side of that corridor, beginning a long wall of photos, sayings, and displays of the history of Walt Disney World, is a simple poster with a picture of Walt Disney and these words:

Walt Disney’s vision for a great guest experience:

Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency

In a line past that poster, you will see 4 more large posters, with a smiling Cast Member’s picture on each, with these words below:

  • I practice safe behaviors in everything I do
  • I am courteous and respectful to Guests of all ages
  • I stay in character and perform my role in every story
  • I use my time and resources wisely

Known by various terms but most often called the 4 Keys, they were literally Walt Disney’s vision for Guest Experiences – first at Disneyland when it opened in 1955, then at the Magic Kingdom in 1971, and at every other theme park, cruise ship, and Disney organization since then.

These 4 keys are simple service standards, and they can be powerful tools in any organization – but especially ChurchWorld.

There is power in establishing a framework of values from which everyone in your organization operates. Within that framework, you can empower team members in a way that gives them a sense of ownership and purpose. You create a consistent image across the entire organization.

Disney’s standards have stood the test of time for over 50 years – shouldn’t you consider creating standards for your organization that will stand the test of time as well?

Today begins a 14-part series on Guest Experience applications from my recent 2-day immersion at Disney World. It’s time for Disney Lab!


2013 GsD (Doctor of Guestology) journey

It All Began With a Mouse…

The title of this post is actually a quote from Walt Disney himself, when asked to reflect upon the vast Disney empire shortly before his death in 1966. While Disneyland was successful, Disney World was 5 years from opening and EPCOT was just a few sketches on paper.

But Disney didn’t coin the term “Imagineer” for nothing.

The magic that Disney brought to the world was summed up in this phrase: “My business is making people, especially children, happy.” More than a statement, it was the basis for Disney’s mission as a business; it represented what the company stands for and why it exists. Changing just a little over the past 60 years, it is The Walt Disney Company’s service theme:

We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere

If you want to understand the “Process” of Guest Services, there is no better place to go than the Disney Company and look at their practical magic for creating the best known Guest experiences in the world.

Practical Magic

Disney has a simple definition for quality service – exceeding your guests’ expectations and paying attention to detail.

The Disney WOW! Factor is exceeding guests’ expectations

  • Paying close attention to every aspect of the guest experience
  • Analyzing that experience from the guest’s perspective
  • Understanding the needs and wants of the guest
  • Committing every element of the process to the creation of an exceptional experience

At Disney, the word Guest is always capitalized and treated as a formal noun.

Quality Service Cycle – the Practical Magic of Disney

  • Service theme – a simple statement, shared among all team members, that becomes the driving force of the service
  • Service standards – the criteria for actions that are necessary to accomplish the service theme
  • Service delivery systems – vehicles used to deliver service
  • Service integration – each element in the QSC combined to create a complete operating system

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It is, and should be – at least from your perspective. Spend a lot of time getting it right. Set up all the process you need to make it work. Implement your process. Evaluate it rigorously, and change it when necessary. Guestology, as Disney calls it, is both an art and a science.

But to the guest, it should all appear effortless.

The weekend’s coming – are you ready to welcome guests in your church?

From Be Our Guest, Revised Edition, by The Disney Institute