Guest Service Idea #8: Bust Up Bottlenecks


By your host, J. Jeff Kober

Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas. Let’s look at how Disney works to bust up bottlenecks that frustrate their customers.

Spent one day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this week and another at Magic Kingdom. Both parks are spending lots of money to bust up bottlenecks that potentially can occur when you are dealing with so many guests at one time. Let’s take a look at examples of this. We’ll start at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Bust Up Bottlenecks

The center intersection in front of the Tree of Life on Discovery Island has been opened up. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is under siege with construction. Most of it is to prepare for the onslaught of additional guests when Avatar opens along with new nighttime offerings. One of the first efforts Disney has made to bust up bottlenecks which are already crowded at times, but will be even more crowded when the park’s new attractions open up.

But this isn’t the only place where Disney needs to bust up bottlenecks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. With The Festival of the Lion King show being moved over to Africa, that intersection just after the bridge has become enormously crowded. Hopefully, when the new African Marketplace opens up, it will open up some space.

Bust Up Bottlenecks

The Africa Marketplace under construction. The road in front will swing behind the current snack area, restrooms, and gift shop. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

And Asia is no exception either. The intersection as you turn to head to Kali River Rapids can also get a little crazy. A new path is being created to allow guests options moving in and out. Again, all of it serves to bust up bottlenecks. None of this addition really adds to the bottom line of the company. But it does do a lot to relieve the frustration guests feel when they are stuck in traffic.

Bust Up Bottlenecks

A new trail around the other side of Monkey Island is opening up to allow guests to enter into the heart of Asia, without having to go through its major intersection. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Of course, Disney’s been doing this for a long time. Here’s one that was implemented when I was a Cast Member at Disney. The parade goes right through the heart of Frontierland. A number of years ago if you wanted to get to Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain, it was a bear to get through–and not a country bear! With crowds lined up on both sides, and with a parade running right down the middle, you couldn’t get through. You were stuck either way.

Then Disney built a network of docks and bridges along its water front.

Bust Up Bottlenecks

From the Liberty belle, we can see the pathway zig and zag along the waterfront. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Now it’s no big deal to weave your way to and from the Frontierland mountains. But that effort required operations making a lot of changes to the landscape of the Rivers of America. And it cost a lot of money. For those who think Disney is always tight fisted with its money, I assure you that the changes we’ve mentioned in this article are in the millions. That’s a serious investment–largely just to make it easier for guests to get from one place to another in what is the most attended theme park on the planet–over 18 million a year!

Bust Up Bottlenecks

That waterfront walk way project was so extensive, it takes two panorama-style photos to capture it all. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Now Disney is working to bust up one of it’s biggest bottlenecks ever. Thousands of guests gather to see Disney’s parades and fireworks. It is an operations nightmare to handle the massive number of people who are witnessing these spectacles, while everyone else is trying to get around them, or trying to get out of the park. That’s why Central Plaza at Magic Kingdom has been under such a major re-construction effort. Its primary purpose is to make bust up bottlenecks that occur.

Bust Up Bottlenecks

Final details being carried out on one of two major bridges that will carry guests in and around Central Plaza. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

You can see an aerial view of this on YouTube. When completed, two pathways will more quickly lead guests coming into the plaza area from Tomorrowland and Adventureland around the biggest part of the bottleneck in the heart of Central Plaza and out toward Main Street, or in the case of Tomorrowland–behind Main Street itself.

These areas, created with an artificial turf, allow people in the bottleneck to have more space. In fact, their dedicated to guests who want a FastPass+ reservation to see the fireworks. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

These areas, created with an artificial turf, allow people in the bottleneck to have more space. In fact, their dedicated to guests who want a FastPass+ reservation to see the fireworks. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Our examples focus on ways to bust up bottleneck in your physical environment. Imagine if your local government paid as much attention to trying to bust up bottlenecks on the roads and highways near your home. Maybe you wouldn’t spend so much time getting to work in the morning or coming home at night. But sometimes, trying to bust up bottlenecks might involve fixing processes that require waiting in line. Waiting for that answer from the IRS regarding your taxes. Maybe its time the IRS busts up some bottlenecks.  You think your insurance company is taking to long to get back with you about your claim? Maybe that’s a bottleneck that needs attention.

Every organization needs to look inward and outward to find new ways to bust up bottlenecks. It’s an investment that pays dividends in the long run! How can you bust up bottlenecks?


Disney Guest Service Idea #7: Plus Up Your Offerings


By your host, J. Jeff Kober

Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas. Let’s look at how Disney continues to plus up its offering.

One of the real treats during my trip to Tokyo Disneyland last summer came about mid-day when I was tired and needing a break. I was at the end of Westernland (that’s what they call Frontierland at Tokyo Disneyland) and had just experienced Big Thunder Mountain (which is a very different ride than the other Thunder Mountains in the Disney parks). I was exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. Looking for some place to take a break, I took a step underneath a train trestle on the right side of the mountain, and then wandered left to a very special place–The Lucky Nugget Cafe.

For those who are Disneylanders, the Lucky Nugget is Disneyland’s version of The Hungry Bear Restaurant. But here it’s a different restaurant at Tokyo Disneyland. To those who love Disneyland Paris, the Hungry Bear Restaurant is pretty much the equivalent to The Lucky Nugget at that park. Confusing isn’t it! Let’s just say that the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Tokyo Disneyland sits at the exit to the Country Bear Jamboree–which would logically make sense.

Plus Up Your Offerings

The Lucky Nugget as seen from Tom Sawyer Island. It is a world unto itself. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The Lucky Nugget at Tokyo Disneyland has all the charm of the Hungry Bear at Disneyland. It dead ends at a quiet turn of the river looking across at Tom Sawyer Island. Because of Big Thunder Mountain, the restaurant manages to stay hidden, so there aren’t too many guests like across the park at the Tomorrowland Terrace. Full of shade trees, it is its own little section of the park.

One of the big things Walt Disney World has done over the last several years is taken the simple character meet ‘n’ greet that occurred randomly out in the parks and created enhanced experiences. Pete’s Silly Sideshow and Princess Fairy Tale Hall are examples. Some of them even utilize FastPass+ to accommodate the number of guests. They have become more of a fantastic experience, than simply a magical moment.

Plus Up Your Offerings

Goofy at home in Pete’s Silly Side Show. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This really isn’t something that has been done much of at Tokyo Disneyland. There is a meet ‘n’ greet at Toon Town for Mickey, but most characters are out and about, if they are available at all. You see them in the parades, but very little out on the streets. It seems like this is a big miss for Tokyo Disney, as I think people would wait in line–and even get a FastPass for the opportunity to meet. It was beautiful walking through the new and elegant Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall at the castle, but I was really surprised to see that there was no meet ‘n’ greet with Cinderella.

Plus Up Your Offerings

A fantastic throne for Cinderella. But there is no Cinderella. The good news is that you can have a photo of you in her place. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

So it was with interest that last week Tokyo Disney Resort announced plans for a new character meet and greet–and where no less–but at the Lucky Nugget Cafe. Actually, the restaurant will close as such, and will reopen with a two-story indoor dining area, as well as a campfire style setting.

Plus Up Your Offerings

The former Lucky Nugget Cafe is soon set to host all Junior Woodchucks.

They’re spending some $25.6 million in U.S. dollars to re-build and re-theme in the style of a Junior Woodchucks of the World campground. And who will be appearing? Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. That’s a lot of investment in remodeling a restaurant and adding a character show/meet ‘n’ greet. But that’s Tokyo Disney.

Plus Up Your Offerings

Soon there will be two floors of seating, not unlike the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

While other locations in the parks do have character meet ‘n’ greet shows, this one will probably be more on the scale of the popular “My Friend Duffy” show in Cape Code at Tokyo Disney Sea. It’s more of a “watch while you eat”, as opposed to a dinner show like “Lilo’s Luau & Fun” or The Diamond Horseshoe’s “Mickey & Company” show. Those offer character experiences, but they are very expensive and require reservations.

Plus Up Your Offerings

There’s lots of room for guests to gather to enjoy the Duffy show, a tremendously popular offering at Tokyo Disney. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

I’m excited for this new development. The downside is that it won’t quite be the hidden hideaway it once was, but it will be well done. Everything Tokyo Disney does is very well done. Moreover, it will allow more opportunities for guests to interact with the Disney characters, plussing not just a restaurant, but the way guests interact with Donald and his nephews. Of course Tokyo Disney has announced additions far grander than this as they prepare to completely re-do their Fantasyland. But the fact that they even plus up their offerings in a small location such as this one, is what makes Tokyo Disney so amazing.

Plussing Up Your Offerings

A depiction of the new Fantasyland for Tokyo Disneyland. It’s an ongoing testament to their commitment to always making things better.

Walt Disney noted: “The park means a lot to me, in that [Disneyland is] something that will never be finished, something I can keep developing and adding to. Not only can I add things, but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful every year.”

Plus up your offerings–that’s what Walt Disney lived by. It’s what has made Disney theme parks even more amazing 60 years later. Great organizations plus up their offerings. How do you do that in your business?


Disney Guest Service Idea #6: Be Prepared For Angry Guests


By your host, J. Jeff Kober

Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas. Let’s look at how Disney works to be prepared for angry guests.

In Guest Service Idea #5, we spoke about how Disney listens to its guests. We have an example of the work that goes on at Guest Relations in the Disney parks, such as City Hall at Disneyland Paris. Throughout the day, Guest Relations receives hundreds of guests. Many just have questions or need help. Some want to share their compliments and some want to complain. And Guest relations stands ready no matter what the concern, even when that guest is quite vocal. After all, some guests are more than upset–they are angry and very mad.

City Hall at Disneyland Paris. Every Guest Relations has a room to accommodate angry guests. It is said that there are four of those at DLP. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

City Hall at Disneyland Paris. Every Guest Relations has a room to accommodate angry guests. It is said that there are four of those at DLP. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

As a result, they can also be disruptive. So as to not upset everyone else who has come to Guest Services to the care of an issue, Disney has a room set aside in the back to handle the needs of guests who require a little more attention than can be provided at a podium.

That room is lovely; its appointments would satisfy any guests, even a celebrity visitor to the park. It has a cool art deco touch, appropriate for the time period of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Its furnishings include a soft, two-ended chaise lounge chair, with a glass coffee table in front. Around the room are black-and-white photos of Walt and the studios in the thirties and forties. The colors are subdued and the lighting is soft. Every appointment in the room serves the very purpose of bringing down the emotional level of the guest, while sending a subtle message that they are important and that management will do everything possible to make things right.

Be Prepared For Angry Guests

Disney sets up their Guest Relations Cast Members for success by providing a quiet, comfortable place to deal with angry guests.

How a matter is resolved depends on two important criteria–its severity, and who is responsible for what happened. Many issues are resolved simply by providing a friendly ear. Some people are satisfied simply when someone else has heard their complaint and understood it. If a problem needs to be fixed, once Disney fixes it the guest is usually happy to resume his or her day in the park. We’ll talk about that in another entry. What’s important to know, is that not only has management trained their top employees on how to deal with angry guests, they’ve provided a space that helps them to succeed with bringing that anger down, and in managing their difficulty.

What do you do to be prepared for angry customers? What do you have in your tool kit to address customer frustrations? Disney has a plan, do you?

By the way, if you like the kinds of ideas you read about today, such as the Guest Relations suite at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you might just want to take a look at my newest book, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz. It’s a great look at scores of little-known stories that are gems for taking your business to the next level. Be sure to take a look!

Disney's Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz, by J. Jeff Kober


Central Plaza at Magic Kingdom: Park or Arena?


It’s been called Central Plaza. It’s the space at the center of Magic Kingdom parks that comes at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. and lies before the castle. It also serves as the stepping off point for all other lands in the park. A plaza traditionally has been a large open space. But Disneyland’s plaza has always been characterized by park benches, shade trees, and flowers. For many families it was the place to meet up if at the end of the day, or if everyone got lost (something that occurred easily before cell phones).

Disneyland's Central Plaza puts the "park" into theme park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Disneyland’s Central Plaza puts the “park” into theme park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The idea of a central plaza was created before fireworks were first really introduced into Disneyland. The fireworks were a crowd pleaser. Everyone made their way in front of the castle to see the pyro burst in the shadow of Sleeping Beauty castle. That tradition has been carried on to this day.

A few years after Walt Disney World got built, another idea came along of staging a show in front of the castle. A stage was built, and it became a major part of the Magic Kingdom tradition. “Kids of the Kingdom” style shows were mainstays for many years. Such shows continue today, and now entire entertainment events such as Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! consume the entire Central Plaza. Making it easier for people to see Wishes fireworks at night has led the park to reducing shade trees and removing benches.

Popular shows like Dream Along with Mickey are given daily in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Popular shows like Dream Along with Mickey are given daily in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Disney was experiencing something even bigger. The popularity of their stage shows is even bigger. The good news is that they have a larger central plaza for hosting such events. The downside is now the entire front of the castle is consumed by benches saved for guests waiting in line to see the show. Major castle towers were added to house sound and lighting for the shows. Coincidentally, that same tower look is planned for the Magic Kingdom.

Truthfully, because I didn't stand in line for the stage show, this is the closest I got to the front of the castle during my entire stay. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Truthfully, because I didn’t stand in line for the stage show, this is the closest I got to the front of the castle during my entire stay. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The good news is that there is enough space at Tokyo Disney that they still offer benches and places to enjoy being in a park like setting. Even if you can’t stop and smell the roses in Central Plaza, there are still many other places to do so.

Example of benches near the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. This is a missing element at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Example of benches near the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. This is a missing element at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

This week landscaping and fountains were added to the new, enlarged Central Plaza at Magic Kingdom. I’m glad that they’ve enlarged the space. It’s needed with the millions of extra guests that come through this park. The fountain looks like something from the “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” park scene in Hello Dolly.

The fountain is something more like Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The fountain is something more like Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Likewise, there is some beautiful landscaping in the form of topiaries that have been prepared for this area.

It's lovely, but it's still very urban--for a Disney park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

It’s lovely, but it’s still very urban–for a Disney park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There’s a lot to like, such as the turn-of-the-century fixtures. But there are some things that are missing. As of yet, there have been no major trees planted. So there will likely be no shade. With no shade, will there be any benches? They were largely removed from Central Plaza before. Will they take advantage of the larger space to add some more shade and benches? Of all the Disney parks, I must say, there seems to be less places to pull up a bench and enjoy the park. And the great niches for enjoying the ambience seem dedicated to being smoking areas. Is that where this is going?

Of course, it’s important that as many as possible be given the chance to see the fireworks and other shows in front of the castle. It’s also will be great to be able to get around if you don’t want to stand on the street and see the parade? But where do you get to sit and watch the parade go by?

What do you think of the changes happening to Central Plaza at the Magic Kingdom?


Disney Guest Service Idea #5: Listen to Your Guests


Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas. Important to providing great guest experiences is to listen to your guests.

Listen to your guests–It seems like such an obvious thing. And it’s something that happens all the time at Disney. There are two ways to do that–quantitatively and qualitatively.


Don’t get lost by these terms. It’s really very simple. Let us give you two examples found in Disney parks. Have you ever been approached by a host or hostess in the parks to take a survey? They usually ask for your e-mail address, or they invite you to sit down and actually fill out a survey right then and there. Most of that information they are gathering is quantitative in nature. They want to know how many and which rides and attractions you’ve been on. They may ask you how much did you enjoy the parade. They want to crunch those numbers, because it helps them to make decisions about where to put resources to improve the guest experience.

Listen to Your Guests

Here is a sample page from an electronic survey provided to guests at the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

On the other side of the spectrum is qualitative data. This is usually comments made by guests about their experience. Some of this is done formally, but much of it is done informally. Did you ever stop at City Hall? Many people who visit that location are usually in search of an answer to a problem. Well-trained cast members, who speak many languages are available to answer any number of questions, or to direct guests to where they can get help.

Listen to Your Guests

A huge queue is readied for guests visiting Tokyo Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Some people stop by to more formally express thanks for something that had happened to them in the park. Still, some may drop in to express their frustration. Those individuals may have been frustrated that they had to wait so long in line, or that they had to spend so much money in the park, or that a cast member was inappropriate or rude. Sometimes they’re not simply frustrated, they’re ticked–and very upset. In our next entry we’ll talk about what happens in those instances. But the important thing is that successful customer service happens when you listen to your guests. As your self:

  • How do you listen to your guests quantitatively?
  • How do you listen to your guests qualitatively?
  • How do you act on that information?

Whether you provide a listening ear, or whether you have a big survey, what matters is that you’re taking the time to listen to your guests.

Do you like these ideas about great guest service at Disney? Then you may want to check out my exhaustive look at the guest experience at Disney. The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney is available on Amazon. Be sure to take a look.


Disney Guest Service Idea #4: Stay Open After You Close


Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas. Let’s look at how great organizations stay open after you close.

In our previous blog, we spoke about the idea that organizations should open a few minutes before the stated opening time, so that people aren’t waiting for the doors to open. Today we head to the other end of the work day–when the doors closed.

At Disney, the park does close at the stated time, but that doesn’t mean that everything comes to an end. If the closing time is 10 pm at Disney California Adventure, that doesn’t mean Radiator Springs Racers stops working. Everyone who is in line to ride the attraction at that time gets to stay in line until they have had a chance to ride. That’s significant, as lines may be as long as 75, 90, even 120 minutes in length.

Stay Open After You Close

Radiator Springs and the surrounding canyon are so beautiful at night, it’s hard not to take advantage of going on Radiator Springs Racers one more time–even if the wait is 100 minutes in length. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Diners may not be able to get a table at Tutto Italia once the park hours end at Epcot. But that doesn’t mean diners inside are required to leave the premises. I remember being half way through my Fettucini Alfredo when Illuminations started. the wait staff not only graciously allowed us to step out and enjoy the fireworks, but upon returning to our folded napkins, reheated our dish so we could casually conclude the meal.

Stay Open After You Close

Choosing between finishing your Fettucini Alfredo and seeing Illuminations is a tough decision. Fortunately, they let you have your pasta, and eat it too–after the fireworks. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

It’s closing time on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Paris. The shops in Fantasyland and Frontierland have closed, but there’s still plenty of shopping opportunities on Main Street. It’s a tradition that has occurred on not only every Disney Main Street around the world, but in shops on Hollywood Boulevard, Buena Vista Street, Discovery Island, Future World, Porto Paradiso, and Studio One. And it’s not just a courtesy to the guests. It’s an intelligent business decision that results in more sales during the last couple of hours of the day, than in the rest of the day combined.

Stay Open After You Close

Even when closing is early, it’s still quite late by the time the very last shoppers leave Disneyland Paris. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

It’s an idea that simply seems to make sense. And yet many organizations fail sometimes forget. Click here to see other examples of how Disney has done this. Click here to see an instance where even Disney failed to make magic to the very end. And if you want to see a really great story about how that magic really comes alive after closing, be certain to read my book, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. Customer Service Idea #4: Stay Open After You Close.

Stay Open After You Close

Old fashioned ideas in great customer service come to life in one of Fortune 100’s best companies. Check it out!


Disney Guest Service Ideas #3: Open Earlier Than What Is Stated


Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas. Today we look at the idea of organizations that open earlier than what is stated.

It’s a simple thing: Open earlier than what is stated in your promotional material. If Walt Disney World states that the opening time for the Magic Kingdom is 9:00 am, then you can be sure that the turnstiles are open prior to that. To accommodate all of the guests filing into the park, they open up the area in front of the train station much earlier than opening. Services like stroller and wheelchair rental are available, as well as small merchandise stands selling ponchos, autograph books, sun block and even aspirin.

Even prior to that, the parking toll plaza opens an hour or two prior to opening. Attendants are working early parking cars well before the stated opening time. Ticket booths at the Transportation & Ticket Center are up and running, as are monorails and ferry boats leading to the gates of the Magic Kingdom. Imagine if none of these things didn’t open until 9:00 am. It’s a serious investment on Disney’s part to open early. But doing so rewards the guests and ultimately Disney.

Once there, they create an anticipation by entertaining those guests that arrived earlier, and who are waiting for the rest of the park to open. The mayor comes out and welcomes the crowd, along with other residents of Main Street, USA. A musical number sets the stage as the train comes into the depot, filled with Disney characters. A family selected as special guests, help count down to the moment the park opens, which is accompanied by fireworks and streamers. And all of this happens before the hour of 9:00 am.

open earlier than what is stated

Energy and anticipation await guests as they prepare to enter The Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

I see places where they open earlier than what is stated happening elsewhere. Most Nordstrom stores I’m familiar with have been doing it for years. I was visiting a Great Clips store near my home one morning. The stated opening time was 9 am. But at 8:50 the sign stated it was open for business. I was happy to not have to wait in my car to go in.

open earlier than what is stated

Here it is a few minutes before 9 am at Great Clips and not only are they open, but someone is cleaning the glass while welcoming those arriving earlier. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

What I don’t understand are the restaurants and stores and doctor’s offices and other companies that open earlier than what is stated. Why would you leave your customers waiting outside for you to open up? You’d open the door immediately if you literally saw dollar bills sitting on the sidewalk in front of you. It’s the same thing with your customer. What message are you sending, when you make no effort to welcome those customers waiting to see you.

So there you have it–Guest service idea #3: Open earlier than what is stated.


Disney Guest Service Ideas #2: Exceed Expectations–By Just a Little


Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Jubilee with 60 Guest Service Ideas.

I love pancakes! When I attended Disneyland as a youngster, one of the simple highlights was eating at the River Belle Terrace. There I was surprised with not just eating pancakes for breakfast, but eating a Mickey Mouse Pancake! It was lined with cherry eyes and a pineapple slice smile.

It was a little thing compared with Disneyland attractions like the mighty Matterhorn Bobsleds or Submarine Voyage. But it was something I remembered as a child. On special occasions my mother would replicate the concept at home. That gesture would always take me emotionally back to Disneyland.

Exceeding Expectations at Disney

In truth, there are many details that make up the very quaint experience at the River Belle Terrace. But some times the simplest one is the one you remember most. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Great customer service providers exceed expectations. Disney does that in many ways–some of those ways being very elaborate. But sometimes the simplest things get the biggest attention.

Exceeding Expectations

Here a hamburger at Tokyo Disneyland includes a familiar shape for a bun. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

For kids everywhere, Mickey shaped food products can be found in all of the parks worldwide. The same thing can be found in hidden–and not so hidden–Mickeys that are popular throughout all of the parks. These little touches don’t cost much more to do, and yet they seem to be the thing people most remember.

Exceeding Expectations at Disney

This Mickey wreath is a little touch–it didn’t add much more to the overall holiday decoration budget–but it’s probably the thing that is most remembered. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This played out beautifully on a recent cruise on The Disney Wonder. It was the first trip for my son who deals with Autism. While he loves the Disney parks, we weren’t certain how he would receive the experience of being on a boat. While our evening dining experience was rotational, our servers remained with us. We explained on the first night that he really only liked cheeseburgers, fries and a Sprite. Thereafter we came into the restaurant each night with the meal already prepared and waiting for him. Again, a little thing, but it made a big difference in processing our child through the experience.

Exceeding Expectations

Of course there would be a “Hidden Mickey” in the ketchup. And on this night–Pirate Night–that Mickey came in the form of a skull and crossbones. It went over the head of our son, but it was more than memorable to us. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Of course, no company succeeds by doing “just a little”. Great companies work very hard to provide the best experience possible for you customers. Still, consider how you can exceed those difficult and even complicated expectations by “just a little” to create something that is memorable to your customers. That may be a little gesture, a little extra product, a slightly easier way of doing business. With all of your hard work, it may be the very thing they walk away remembering.


Magic From MyMagic+ Now Finally Arriving


It’s been a while since I reported on an important part of the MyMagic+ program–the magic itself! Most people think this program is completely rolled out, with its ability to do FastPass+, make purchases and so forth. In truth, the fun part of MyMagic+ has yet to show up. There was an investment around 45 million in creating experiences that would happen as you passed by a particular prop or display out in the parks. That would trigger an interactive experience–one that in many cases could be a keepsake of sorts. A few of these could be re-captured in Memory Maker.

One such effort was done with The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The cameras would detect your presence from the MyMagic+ bands, would record video of your ride experience, then infuse it with other video material to create an entire video sequence you would want to share with friends and families. In truth, the parks are littered with experiences like these waiting to be implemented. Some are designed to capture the moment and bring it back to you in Memory Maker, and others that are simply “in the moment” for you to enjoy while you’re on the attraction or out in the resort. The problem was that while the front side of all this was done–the props and the interactive elements that detected it was you from the MyMagic+ band–the backside of this was not completed in the craziness of putting together the entire MyMagic+ system. And so it didn’t get announced with everything else.

My Magic+

The new Bark-O-Lator at Disney’s Animal Kingdom allowed random messages to come up when you barked into it. When it is re-released, it will have messages tailored to your profile. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

That said, an additional 4-5 million have been allocated into finishing out the software on the backside to make all of this happen. And now this year, it’s going to be slowly introduced. This month, the first of these is going to be showcased to guests. Those who have ridden on “it’s a small world” over the last year know that there were monitors added to the final farewell scene in the ride. These will soon be activated. They are a fairly simple experience. Reading the MyMagic+ bands, they will identify the state or perhaps the country where someone is visiting from, and offer some farewell expression that addresses the specific location where people are from. It won’t record anything, but it will individualize the farewell to those riding in the boat. If there are no bands detected, it will simply display more generic messages wishing riders a fond farewell.

My Magic+

Those square-looking signs among the farewell messages are in reality monitors that have temporarily been covered up, but will soon be revealed. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Again, it’s one of the more simple elements that have been created with this program. And some elements of the program–like giving tablets to the jungle cruise skippers–have been taken out of the budget. But at least the devices that were installed are finally going to be activated this year in the park.


Head to the Brown Derby right now and you won’t see these three framed magazine covers. They’ve been covered up with different photos until this system is released to Guests. But in the coming months, they will be re-revealed as part of the MyMagic+ program. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There are many things happening in terms of construction in all four parks this year. Most of those, such as Avatar, and the new Star Wars area, we won’t see for quite a while. But this is one thing you can be on the look out for as you go throughout the parks to visit your favorite attractions. It’s a great approach to providing a high-tech, high-touch experience that you can’t quite get on a smart phone. It’s part of what will set Disney apart moving forward, and I believe it may become the favorite part of the entire MyMagic+ program as it finishes rolling out.


60 Disney Guest Service Ideas


Celebrating Disneyland’s Diamond Celebration with 60 Takeaway Concepts For Improving Customer Service in Your Organization

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2015? One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to blog more often. And I’m committing to doing so by a new series on improving customer service. Disneyland is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary this year! What was a dream in Walt Disney’s mind as a place for families to come together is now a world-wide array of resorts and destinations that includes theme parks, hotels and even a cruise line. All of these spectacular experiences hold great ideas for improving your organization, whether you’re in the public, private or non-profit sector.

60 Disney Customer Service Ideas

The place that first defined Disney’s approach to a great Guest experience–Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

So between now and Disneyland’s anniversary on July 17th of this year, I’ll present 60 great ideas for you to adapt to your own organization–whether you’re a hospital, a store front, an insurance provider, or a government agency. I’ll offer you insights, heritage, and experiences you won’t get any where else. We’ll of course showcase great ideas from The Disneyland Resort, but we’ll see ideas from such places as Epcot, Tokyo Disneyland, The Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s Aulani. We won’t present them in any necessary order, but they are practical things you can make happen back home. Moreover, many of them or low/no cost things that anyone can do. If you love Disney and you want great customer service–you’ll love this new series.

60 Disney Customer Service Ideas

It may simply seem to be a sign in Disneyland Paris for strollers and wheelchairs, but inherent in this sign is how Disney approaches navigating the entire Guest experience. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

So with that in mind, let’s get started!

#1 Provide Guest Service–Not Customer Service

One of the fundamental things Disneyland introduced early on was that customers be referred to as Guests, and not as customers. This tradition has carried to the present day. Even in internal writings, the word Guest is not only used in place of the customer, but it is capitalized.

Why call the customer a Guest? Think about it. When you have a guest come into your home, there are certain things you do. You dress up. You pick up the house before they arrive. The stuff you don’t want others to see gets put into that one closet. You find out what meals they enjoy, and create a special event. You ask your kids to behave a certain way. You put on your best manners.

60 Disney Customer Service Ideas

“Be Our Guest” is more than a movie song or a restaurant in The Magic Kingdom. It’s an approach to hospitality that Disney has implemented for decades. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

That’s a different set of behaviors than you exhibit when someone anonymously just shows up at your door. Thinking of someone as a Guest rather than a customer causes you to think and act differently. To that end, while employees are all referred to as Cast Members–since they are part of a show–those especially serving on the front line are referred to as hosts and hostesses. To that end, Disney seems themselves as hosting millions of Guests in their parks each year.

It’s a simple thing–refer to your customers as Guests. It’s certainly low cost. So consider the following as it relates to your own business or organization:

  • How would we think about customers differently if we referred to them as Guests?
  • What behaviors in our organization would be different if we truly thought of them as Guests?
  • How would we set ourselves apart from the competition by treating our customers as Guests?