Captain's Blog - Stardate 60427.3
Walt Disney World Resorts, Parks, and Vacations are often referred to as "the happiest place on Earth" with some sarcasm and a fair share of eye rolls. I mean, come on...there is no place that is THAT perfect. And if you really look at it, all that perfection is just fluff and totally fabricated. It's not real.
To those skeptics I say this. Of course it's not real. That's the point.
After last week, my first trip back to Disney in almost fifteen years, I am beyond impressed by how wonderful all of their cast members served the company and created an amazing experience for all of us from start to finish.
That is not to say there weren't hiccups. In fact, there were a number of technical and reservation challenges that presented themselves throughout our trip. That's life and that's fine. But what was incredible to me was the consistent way these problems were rectified. The Disney customer service for the trip was nothing short of stellar. Every service provider can stand to learn from this company's policies.
Service with a smile
A Disney vocabulary lesson: Every employee is referred to as a cast member. Their "brand" is that they are an entertainment provider and that every interaction they have with the public is part of the show. This holds true from the janitors to Jafar. And it's true.
Example one: We arrived at our hotel early in the morning, got situated, and started our walk to the park around 8:30 am. On the way, we passed a few cast members going about their business. Some may not have even started their shifts yet. However, as we passed by they greeted us with a "Good morning" and a smile.
Example two: This was our four-year-old niece's first visit to the parks. She's been very excited about meeting the princesses, because she loves them and plays with her princess figures and dolls on a daily basis. However, she has been equally wary of meeting them because sometimes she gets afraid of characters. For example, Santa Claus is "a very nice man" but she has not been interested in meeting him at the mall.
Our first event at the Magic Kingdom was a meet and greet with Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. We didn't have a fast pass (an idea just being developed the last time I was there) so we waited for seventy-five minutes in a slow-moving line being blasted with an arctic level of air conditioning. In fact, I had to explain to our niece that they were keeping it cold for Elsa's comfort.
After the very long wait and some mild fussing, we finally got into the room with Elsa and Anna. The excitement and the nerves built simultaneously and when it was our niece's turn to meet Elsa, she turned on her shyness and refused to speak.
Elsa drifted over, in her beautiful flowing dress, and approached our niece. "Hello Princess, what's your name?" Her mother answered and then, gently, Elsa brought the four-year-old over to the photo spot with some prodding from her parents. Nervous, she hid her face from the camera and looked away from the Princess as well. Both the Disney photographer and the family started trying to coax the child to smile, but it was Elsa who spoke. "We're talking right now. We'll be right with you." She used her grace and empathy to "read the room" for her performance and found the right things to say to get our niece to not only turn to the camera, but smile as well. It was perfect.
The more we develop technology to connect and improve our world, which you can learn about on the "Carousel of Progress," the more opportunities there are for difficulties. Apparently Disney is not free from these trials.
Example one: This is a small, kind of ridiculous story. We wanted one of those big pretzels you get at amusement parks. Of course, the ones at Disney are shaped like Mickey Mouse. After we found the kiosk in question, we walked right up to the vendor and placed our order. Embarrassed, the vendor apologized. "We're out of pretzels, but they're on their way. See?" He pointed to a woman not five feet away rolling a stack of crates with warm pretzels. Within seconds, those pretzels were behind the counter, tossed in paper, and in our hands. How were we compensated for our almost twelve seconds of unbearable suffering? Two free water bottles.
Example two: There were multiple glitches on the rides. Whether they were new rides or some of the classics, we ran into a handful of stalls. They were prepared for each and every one, with ride-specific recordings that maintain the integrity of the experience.
Example three: This is the big one. Disney has developed a wristband, similar to a FitBit, that serves as your pass for everything at the park and resort. My boyfriend and I added our reservation to the rest of the family's a little bit later due to some scheduling adjustments, and when we got to the park, we had to start at will call to make sure that our bands were activated properly.
Once we were in, these wrist bands are our key to the "Fast Passes" (FP) I mentioned earlier. These bands allow us near-instant access to the rides or experiences we pre-selected. However, when we got to our first FP, my boyfriend's band wasn't working. Obviously aware that he was with the rest of us, each ticket taker had no problem letting him join us and never once made an issue of this technical glitch.
However, when we got back to the hotel, our wristband were supposed to be able to unlock the hotel room door, but neither of our bands functioned.
Now, we've both stayed in hotel rooms before and sometimes the pass keys don't work. You go down to the desk, explain, and they solve the problem.
Disney did more.
We were able to get into the room since the rest of the family had wristbands that worked perfectly, so we weren't that concerned. But within two minutes of our failed attempts of ingress, Disney called us. They saw that our band was unsuccessful at opening the door and wanted to solve the problem. They confirmed the problem, solved it, and offered us an additional fast pass for the evening as an apology. They called us. Brilliant.
A Perfect Experience
There were other examples of how great this trip was during our day and half at Disney World. We arrived at the hotel hours before our check-in time and they not only held our bags at the desk while we parked the cars and enjoyed the parks, but put the bags in the room once it was available.
The park was clean, appeared freshly painted and well manicured, and just great. The attention to detail through the entire park always impresses and is simply astonishing. All in all, for customer service, Disney World is absolutely the happiest place on Earth.