Why? Because we like you

Istock_000000986868xsmall Seriously. I do make it a point to avoid writing about the companies you read about all the time anyway, like Starbucks and Nike and Apple. Mainly, because, even though the spirit of the stories is intended to inspire, I believe it’s hard for most small to mid-size businesses to identify with corporations that have mega-budgets for training, marketing and "experience building." So, I aim to keep it simple. That’s why I chose this story of service recovery, told by Don Robinson, Disney’s Sr. VP of Resort Operations, because it illustrates how providing a memorable customer experience begins with the basics of common courtesy, communication and compassion.

One of the most important things that we train staff members to do is service recovery. That's when you walk into a situation and you can tell that something has gone wrong -- and you do whatever it takes to fix the problem. That's also an opportunity for what we call a "magic moment."

We once had a family that wanted to celebrate a child's birthday at a "character breakfast" -- a buffet in which Disney characters mingle with guests, sign autographs, and pose for photographs. But this family was late and didn't make the seating. The next show was scheduled for lunch, which was also booked. Members of the family were sitting on a bench outside the restaurant, waiting for an opening, when one of our employees walked by and saw that these people were not happy campers.

The employee found out what the problem was and said, "Let me see what I can do." He was able to get them into the lunch show, seat them right up front, and make sure that the birthday boy's favorite character sang "Happy Birthday.” That was a magic moment -- a quick recovery from what could have been a very disappointing birthday.

The best part? The employee who did that recovery was a custodian -- a guy just walking by with a broom, sweeping up cigarette butts. But all of our employees, from janitors and dishwashers to hotel managers, know they have the ability -- and the responsibility -- to improve the experience of any guest.

Okay, I know some people may point out that the birthday experience that Disney provides does indeed cost money, but the story is about an employee being aware of the role he plays in the total customer experience.

First, it's necessary to sell the notion of the "customer experience" to all of employees, not just those “on the frontline.” Secondly, define in detail to every employee what it means to provide “service recovery.”