Stop Instructional Graffiti

Stop Instructional Graffiti

By your host, J. Jeff Kober

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’ll look at the guest service idea of how too many rules can ruin the Guest experience. Let’s visit the Harambe Railway Station to see an example of something we find in many customer service arenas. Disney’s Imagineers wanted to create a more authentic experience when they built Africa. This is not an ideal Africa, nor a fantasy-style Adventureland. Rather, it offers the essence of what you would experience when you visit a coastal African town. Let’s see how it plays out when you head over to board the train.

Usually instructional signage starts off with good intent:

Stop Instructional Graffiti
There is good intent to this sign, but it manages to make one of the most common mistakes–too much text. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Here the signage begins by acknowledging that every traveler should receive the best service possible. Then it goes into rules about not needing tips. Then it sinks further by stating that any passenger causing trouble in town is going to get punished. Not exactly a way to greet your customers.

There’s more signage. Here’s one about your luggage:

Like most people are going to try to find the wrong luggage. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Like most people are going to try to find the wrong luggage. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Here’s one to make sure you’re keeping an eye on your kids:

Stop Instructional Graffiti
In truth, you can never have enough signs for all of the different places kids can get in trouble. So why start? Photo by J. Jeff Kober

The following is my favorite. The sign says that no advertisement should be posted on the wall. So what happens? It’s like a suggestion that maybe this is a good place to put signage.

Stop Instructional Graffiti
What’s great about this wall is that there’s even more instructional graffiti on the wall. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Even the train itself has signage:

Stop Instructional Grafitti
Having your soda and popcorn on the train doesn’t seem so bad compared to cooking. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

In truth you can find this instructional graffiti throughout all of Harambe. Here’s a sign outside of the new Festival of the Lion King Theater in the Harambe Theatrical District.

Stop Instructional Grafitti
Clearly there are serious issues in town with baboons. But what town doesn’t have that problem? Photo by J. Jeff Kober

Now, the truth is, that the Imagineers have simply parodied what we find in so many places. It’s the tendency of service organizations to try to “manage” the guest by instructing them what to do, and by saying it with signage wherever they go. But it seldom works. In fact, it’s really a form of customer service pollution.

So where do you go to find great examples of avoiding instructional graffiti? Why Disney, of course. One of the things that Disney does really well is it avoids instructional graffiti in the first place. And when they do create a sign–well it’s not only magical, it’s memorable. For instance, if I asked frequent Disney fans to recall any of the signs from this train station, they probably wouldn’t identify any of them. But if I asked them to identify what sign was over the door in the entrance to this enchanted place, they would know:

Stop Instructional Grafitti
Even the Goddess Uh Oah avoids using too much instructional signage. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Caution! AutoMagic Doors, along with a simple yellow stripe keeps people from being hit from a door moving toward them. There are great examples of how Disney uses signage sparingly, but skillfully to direct the Guest experience. Moreover, there are many fantastic ways Disney is able to get guests to do what they are supposed to do without having to put up a sign.

What are those techniques? Well, that would take a lot of pages to explain. Fortunately, the answers can be found in my book, The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney. It’s a shameless plug, but nowhere else can you get those kinds of insights. Other customer experience books about Disney talk about how to be courteous and smile. But this one goes on to explain the entire guest experience. And you can’t talk about the customer experience if you don’t focus on avoiding the instructional graffiti.

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

Stop instructional graffiti–and get your customers to do what you want them to do.

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