Quality Customer Service The Disney Way

Recently I had the good fortune of attending a Disney Institute course on Quality Service that was sponsored by DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University. As an avid Disney fan there were a number of people who questioned my motives for wanting to attend this course. I will admit, the fact that it was a Disney Institute course was what first peaked my interest and how I became aware of it but after reading about what would be discussed I felt it would be an excellent course to take and I was not mistaken.  I gained a lot of insight into a different way of looking at and addressing customer service.

As the Executive Officer for a Not-For-Profit Association my members are my customers (not the general public) but many of the same principles apply.

In this post I will discuss some of my take-aways on the ideas/points I felt were most relevant for me, but this is certainly in no way the full content of what was discussed at the class.  Some of the following information is taken directly from the workbook provided but most is my paraphrasing and interpretation.

I know I'm at the right class when there are Mickey and Minnie balloons at the door!

I know I’m at the right class when there are Mickey and Minnie balloons at the door!

One of the first discussions was on what Disney terms “Overmanagement”.   Overmanaging is not micromanaging; it means paying extraordinary attention to the details surrounding general business processes.  If the business processes are very detailed and deliberate it takes the guess work out of what needs to be done and empowers employees (“Cast Members”) to make quick decisions without having to seek approval first.

It needs to be stressed that customer loyalty is influenced by each and every contact or “touchpoint” they have with your organization. “Touchpoints are ANY medium that engages with the customer.”  Many of these touchpoints are often overlooked such as finding your phone number online or ease of locating your office, etc. By overmanaging all touchpoints you create a better likelihood of a positive overall experience and the more positive touchpoints a customer has the more likely they are to overlook a negative one, if it occurs.

Disney feels there are three core principles for service design: Purpose, Customer, and Business.

Principle 1: Your organization must have a purpose or essential foundation on which all other service decisions, policies and processes can be developed.

Principle 2: Understand your customer.  Move beyond the obvious and try to understand what their needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions are so you can create a positive experience.

Organizations should not make assumptions about what a customer needs or wants from their service experience.

Organizations should not make assumptions about what a customer needs or wants from their service experience.

Principle 3: View service as an economic asset. I really liked their following statements “Customer service costs must be viewed in light of an unshakeable belief in service as an economic asset, even when the returns on those costs are not immediately measurable” and “Service investments are about people, not issues” .  Building relationships with your customers takes time, effort, and money but these are investments not just costs.

Organizations need to identify, define, prioritize, and communicate their quality standards.

To identity quality standards start by looking at how your customers would describe their ideal experience with your organization and what service they expect. Examples: efficient, accurate, friendly etc.  With these words you can start to define exactly what is meant by them.  From there you prioritize the standards and finally you communicate all this information to everyone within your organization.

Going back to my prior statement about empowering Cast Members to make decisions, this is what makes that possible.  When there are clearly set, defined, and communicated quality standards the employee can quickly go through them in their head when a situation presents itself and act accordingly.

In this and many areas I find communication is always key.  You can have all the policies and processes you want, but if no one knows about them what good are they?

Disney’s Quality Standards priorities are:  1. Safety, 2. Courtesy, 3. Show, and 4. Efficiency.  Every decision by anyone in the organization is questioned against these priorities.  An example was given that even the finance department uses these priorities.  If funds are being requested to improve safety measures they are given priority and approval before funds being requested for an efficiency issue.  Another example would be if a Cast Member is in costume for Fantasyland (part of the “show”) they normally would not be allowed to be seen in Tomorrowland in that costume but if it were a matter of safety that breach of protocol would be overlooked.  Safety trumps everything.

In conclusion “Exceptional service is achievable for every organization because exceptional service is ‘architected’ from systems and processes you control.”

If you ever have an opportunity to attend a Disney Institute class I would highly recommend it and I look forward to attending more in the future.

I want to thank Carmen Garcia and John Hill of the Disney Institute for facilitating such a thought provoking discussion and sharing some of Disney’s approaches to Quality Service.  Oh, and thank you for the PPIR’s below (Positive Plastic Intermittent Reinforcements) that now sit on my computer at the office.

Positive Plastic Intermittent Reinforcements

Positive Plastic Intermittent Reinforcements

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Love my Rubba Ducks

I love rubber ducks.  It may stem from my love of Sesame Street as a kid and singing the rubber duckie song along with Ernie but whatever the reason when I had kids of my own I made sure there were rubber ducks to play with in the tub.

However, I had a bit of love hate relationship with them because of the hole in the bottom.  Water would get in there and then get all moldy and when squeezed the disgusting “gunk” (a technical term of my kids) would come out and contaminate the bathtub water.   Well, not any more. Not with Rubba Ducks.

I was thrilled when given the opportunity to review a couple of Rubba Ducks.   They are adorable and best of all (to me anyway) they DO NOT have the dreaded hole to collect water and mold.

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My Rubba Ducks showed up in August and I had every intention to writing this post about them right away but life got in the way.  My son broke his hand and had to have numerous trips to the orthopedic surgeon and fracture clinic as they tried to determine if there was more than one break or not.   I’m happy to report it was only one but it was still a hectic few weeks.

Why does this have anything to do with Rubba Ducks, well he was the first in our house, to finally get to play with the ducks we were sent, while he soaked the medical tape off his hand.  As he splashed away the Rubba Ducks stayed upright.  They have weights in the bottom that keeps them floating upright, all the time.

We received Duckanderthal and Giddy-Up Duck and the attention to detail with their colour, sculpturing and decorative costumes and designs is amazing.  Each Rubba Duck also comes with its own hatch date which is a cute feature.

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Rubba Ducks can be purchased online at www.rubbaducks.net but they are also the only Non-Disney Toy to be found at The BOATHOUSE Restaurant in Disney Springs.

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Would you like to win a Rubba Duck of your very own? Just leave a comment below by 12 noon EST on September 14, 2015 and one lucky person will be randomly selected to win your own Rubba Duck.

Even though I received my Rubba Ducks for free to review on my blog, all opinions are my own.

My Visit To Vancouver

I recently had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Columbia for work and I was looking forward to it since I haven’t been there since I was about 14 years old.  I must say, although I didn’t get to sight see a great deal, Vancouver exceeded my expectations.

Vancouver is a thriving multi-cultural community situated between a breathtaking mountain range and the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The city appears to have invested a lot of money and effort into developing its harbour and shoreline trails.  As a former roller derby player I was envious of the miles of smooth pathways and wished I had brought along my roller skates to get some exercise and take full advantage of these wonderful trails.  Without my skates I had to settle for a leisurely 10 km jog around the scenic Stanley Park. I say leisurely because there were many photo stops along the way to photograph the natural beauty of the area as well as cherry and apply blossoms which were in bloom while I was there.

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Not far from my hotel, the Hyatt, was the 2010 Olympic Cauldron which was considerably less magnificent than I had remembered from watching all the television footage of the event.  In its defence however, I did not get to see it lit up and there was a barrier around it to the mar the visual effect.

One item that was as good as the hype from the Olympics was the Japadog food truck.  A juicy hotdog with traditionally Japanese toppings like seaweed and wasabi sauce may sound odd together but came together in a surprisingly tasty meal.  I completely understand why they were in such demand during the Olympics.

As with most conferences I attend I seem to eat my way through them and the conference in Vancouver was no exception.  I can’t even remember how many mouth-watering salmon dishes I gorged myself on, especially sushi.

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One of my favorite meals was at the Cactus Club across the street from the Hyatt. I had the butternut squash ravioli with truffle butter sauce and jumbo prawns for an appetizer and the raincoast greens salad as my main.  Everything was so fresh and tasty and the Bellini and their Signature Sangria weren’t too bad either.

They Hyatt itself is a newer tastefully decorated hotel with the most attentive and helpful concierge staff I have had the pleasure to deal with in recent years.  Not only did they provide maps, directions, suggestions and arrange multiple tours and transportation for our diverse group. They also (without us asking them to) called around to confirm attractions we wanted to see would be open and thankfully too, since the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden was not open on the day we wanted to visit.

My one minor complaint with the Hyatt was the new elevator system that could not keep up with the extremely large volume of guests that wanted to use the elevators all at the same time when the sessions let out.  I took more than one elevator trip with a repair technician as he tested the system but I was comforted by the fact that they were actively trying to correct the problems.

One of the tours that the concierge suggested was a free tour and I love free. Tour guys operate in a number of larger centers and their guides work strictly on tips.  Emma (I believe her name was) was our guide for the morning, leading us around the downtown core telling us about some of the more interesting buildings, like the Marine Building and Christ Church Cathedral.  She also pointed out some of the many art pieces, like “The Pendulum” and “The Drop”.

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I found it commendable that in the current climate of cutbacks for the arts Vancouver has implemented a policy whereby for every square foot of new private sector re-zoned space built in the downtown core the builder is required to contribute $1.81/per sq. ft. to a public arts process.  These art projects have certainly lent themselves to the beautification of the area and created more interesting items for tourists (like me) to admire.

All in all I had a great conference in Vancouver.  Oh, and I learned some stuff for work too.  LOL

As I said at the start of this post Vancouver exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.

 

My adventure to Roatan, Honduras

I’ve spent MANY hours lately researching where to go for our next trip and in doing so it made me reminisce about past holidays so I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorites.

In 2012 my husband and I decided we wanted to go someplace different and after much debate settled on Media Luna in Roatan, Honduras.

For those of you that may not be familiar with Roatan it is a small island (approximately 48 miles long by 5 miles at its widest) off the mainland of Honduras.  It lies just off the edge of the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world and a large part of its economy comes from tourism due to its beauty and proximity to the reef for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Landing in Roatan was an interesting experience. The landing strip is rather short and immediately after a quick decent over the hills beside the airfield.  It was equally as unique when we left; so much so that the pilot advised the takeoff would be different than most people are used to.  The plane taxied to the farthest end of the runway, the brakes were engaged and then the engine revved to the point the plane was vibrating before the pilot released the brakes and the plane took off like a shot up the short runway.  All though it was a smooth takeoff it felt like we just barely had enough runway and then height to clear the hills.

Media Luna

Media Luna is a beautiful remote resort on a small beach surrounded by lush vegetation.  Although the beach is small it is sufficient for the size of the resort and was never busy.  The resort offered the use of sea kayaks which we took advantage of a number of times to check out the coral that was visible from the surface of the water not that far down the beach. You could also walk down the shoreline and see some interesting fish hiding in the rocky crevices. I would strongly recommend water shoes for anyone wanting to walk down the beach past the sandy area.  I tried to step from sandy area to sandy area and managed to fall rather inelegantly into the water fully dressed before dinner one evening.

Coral visible from sea kayak just barely off shore.

The main building of the resort houses a small gift shop, front desk and restaurant/entertainment area.  The restaurant is set up in a way that I had never seen before but really enjoyed.  The room is set up almost like a theatre with graduated levels of seating leading from a large open area at the bottom for entertainment purposes to the buffet that is on the large, main, upper level.  Each level is wide enough to hold the dining tables and is where you eat all your meals.

Terraced restaurant

The evening entertainment was one of the few areas that I found lacking but in all honesty they were doing their best to accommodate a large group of very demanding Italians that were also staying at the resort while we were there, so about half the shows were in Italian. There was only one evening scheduled for a dance party and it wound down by 11pm.  I’ve heard that recently they have more than one evening of dancing which I would appreciate.

I’m an adventurous eater who will try just about anything and not particularly picky so I had no problems with the food, but neither did my husband who is a very basic eater.  I had the most incredible calamari I have ever tasted while there.  Instead of being sliced into rings it was left as a tube and stuffed almost like cannelloni.  There was always an assortment of meats but you did have to be careful when eating the fish because there were often bones in it even though it appeared to be fillets. Surprisingly there was not a lot of fruit provided and never any bananas. If you are looking for 5 star Michelin dining this is not the place for you but it was always edible with numerous choices.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

Looking forward to another perfect beach sunset.

The drinks were always ice cold and not lacking for alcohol so I understood quickly why they didn’t provide large glasses for the drinks.  I had to ask the bartenders to put half the rum in my drinks so I didn’t end up tipsy.  We were told to try the lemon daiquiris and were not impressed at first but once the alcohol was reduced they quickly became my drink of choice. I also heard the expresso bar was first rate but never tried it myself.

One of my favourite things about this resort was the sprawling layout and rooms.  I absolutely loved that each room was its own private cabin.  We had an oceanfront cabin and I would highly recommend paying the extra for these cabins as the views were worth every penny.   The cabins themselves were a decent size with a large bathroom.  The shower was against an exterior wall with a frosted glass window looking out over the ocean.  There was a small unfrosted area high enough to look out at the water but not expose you if someone happened to go past the cabin at that time. We did find out rather unintentionally that although you can’t see particulars through the frosted glass you can tell when someone is in the shower.  Our room had a king size four poster bed with semi-sheer curtains that could be pulled closed around it.

Our roomBeside our cabin

The cabin also had a sizeable porch/balcony with 2 lounge chairs and a two person hammock for relaxing in.  We weren’t however the only ones who enjoyed our porch.  For the first few mornings we would wake up to find a mess on the decking but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  On night number three we discovered our friends.  There were 2 large (at least large to me) bats that made the ceiling of the porch their home and they were the ones leaving us fruit bits and droppings for presents every morning.

Our bat friends

My husband, Wayne, and I are the type of people who like to experience and enjoy the true culture of where we are visiting. We have been known to hop on local buses just to see where they take us when we travel.  In Roatan the resort we chose was on the far end of the island away from any towns so before we arrived we arranged to rent a dirt bike to get around.  What I didn’t account for was just how hilly and windy the roads would be. The road into the resort had such a steep incline that I decided there was no way I would feel comfortable on the back of the bike about not falling off so Wayne got a lot of alone time to check out the island without me.

One of the many windy roads

We did rent a van for a few days with two other couples we met at the resort and managed to tour the island a little.  On one of Wayne’s solo excursions he found this local man who offered to take us for a tour of the mangroves for a fraction of the price of the tours offered at the resort so we went for it.  When we arrived for the tour and saw the boat we nearly backed out.  The boat (for 7 of us) was only slightly better than a canoe and the canopy on the boat was a plastic sand box lid that was strapped to four shower curtain rods to hold it up.  The boat may not have been pretty (nor was the tour guide) but it was the most amazing afternoon.  The guide was born and raised in the area and told us all kinds of neat tidbits of information interspersed with a liberal amount of humour.

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On the second to last day there we drove into town and went on a dune buggy tour.  The guide handed us bandanas to tie around our faces and told us to take a lap around the warehouse to get a feel for the buggy before we headed out into the wilderness.  We hadn’t even completed that lap before Wayne found a mud puddle to splash through.  The guide just laughed and said we were definitely going to have a fun day.  He took us down all kinds of dirt paths (although he called them roads) to an open mud field and let us loose.  About 100 feet into the field I realized why he gave us the bandanas.  I hadn’t pulled mine over my mouth and Wayne hit the first bog and swamped me with muddy water in my face and mouth.  I think I swallowed a half a cup of mud.  We played in the mud for about an hour and laughed so hard my sides hurt but I was still ecstatic to see our next stop of the tour was a private beach to swim (and clean off) and have a snack.

Dune buggy fun

Lessons learned when on a dune buggy – put your bandana over your face and keep your mouth shut when mud bogging.  If you don’t do this you may end up sick like I did.  The day after I got home I was violently ill and my doctor initially thought I may have typhoid.  Since I was working for a pharmaceutical research company at that time I could not go to work for fear of contamination but it was quickly determined I did not have typhoid but had swallowed some nasty bacteria when I swallowed all the muddy water.  A week of antibiotics and I was good as new.

I may have gotten sick from this trip (through no fault but my own) but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if there weren’t so many other places I still need to see.

On to the next adventure.

 

 

Eating Quick-Service at Walt Disney World Resort

Over the years I have purchased most of the different Dining Plans available at Walt Disney World Resort (“WDW”).  I prefer to purchase the Dining Plans because I like to have my costs figured out ahead of time and I don’t want to think about how much I’m spending on each meal.  The great thing about the Dining Plans are all the choices available depending on what style of restaurant you prefer and how many meals a day you want to eat.

With all the different Disney Dining Plans available at WDW the one that I seem to keep returning to is the Quick-Service Dining Plan.  This plan consists of two Quick-Service meals and one snack each day.

Now some people have told me I’m crazy to want to eat “fast food”  for an entire week but these are the people who don’t understand the vast array of options available for Quick-Service at WDW.  I’ve spent entire weeks at WDW and never eaten a single hamburger, which truly amazes some people.

Quick-Service at WDW basically means you eat cafeteria style instead of being waited on.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the food or options offered.

The following is a sample of the Quick-Service meals offered and some of my personal favorites:

Salmon with Couscous and Broccoli from Columbia Harbour House;

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Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

Beef Udon or Tokyo Sushi Combo from Katsura Grill;

Ginger Chicken Salad from Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes;

Barbeque Pork Sandwich from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café;

Half Rotisserie Chicken from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café;

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Sunshine Seasons.

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Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

All this choice and no need to figure out and book reservations months ahead of time is why I keep returning to the Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Don’t get me wrong the Table-Service restaurants are fabulous too but after having purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan  a few years ago and booking reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for a week, it felt like all my family did was run from reservation to reservation.  There was no spontaneity and it was far too scheduled.

With the Quick-Service restaurants you just stop to eat when you are hungry and see something on the menu that looks appealing to you at that moment.  No planning needed.

I still book the occasional Table-Service restaurant for special occasions but am more than happy with the less expensive Quick-Service options and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asks.

I Love Disney’s FastPass+

I’ll admit I was skeptical when Disney rolled out its FastPass+ program.  It just seemed like this was one more thing I would have to plan long before we actually arrived at WDW and as much as I like planning for our vacations, my family doesn’t like to have every element of our holidays “scheduled” in advance.

For instance, after purchasing the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan one visit and booking dining reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, it felt like all we did was run from one reservation to the next and it took some of the fun out of the visit for us. Now I only book one or two Table-Service meals per week to avoid the dreaded “schedule”.

If you are staying at a WDW Resort you can book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days in advance of your check-in date and if you have purchased advance tickets (without a WDW Resort stay) you can book FastPass+ experiences 30 days in advance of your use date.

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From either your computer or your smart phone you can access the My Disney Experience web page or App to set up your FastPass+ experiences. You select 3 choices from the available attractions and the system will provide you with a number of time slot options for you to select from. It’s so easy.

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I liked the fact that for most experiences you get a one hour time slot and not just a specific time.  This one hour time slot provides a lot more flexibility to arrive at the attraction at a time that works for you within the hour window.

The hardest part about the whole process was deciding which 3 attractions/experiences are your favorites that you want to guarantee a time slot for.   We have a few must do’s every vacation that do not normally have very long lines so we decided to forgo using FastPass+ on those rides and used them for the rides that traditionally have longer lines (such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Midway Mania)  so we didn’t have to wait as long.

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When all was said and done I loved the FastPass+ system and being able to book 3 attractions ahead of time.  I hadn’t realized before this trip just how much my family likes to sleep in.  We aren’t early risers.  We would much rather sleep in and then stay at the Parks until they close.  Under the old system, by not getting to the Parks early we were often too late to get a FastPass for our favorite attractions and would just have to wait in line.  The new system shortened our overall wait time immensely.  I loved it and can’t wait to use it again.

Why I love Disney PhotoPass Photo Books

Photobook covers

Before I get into why I love Disney PhotoPass Photo Books to show my #DisneySide, let’s start with some basics in case you are unfamiliar with the Disney PhotoPass service.  Here is a quick summary.

As you wander around Walt Disney World, Disneyland, ESPN Wide World of Sports or even Aulani you may see photographers (often wearing a tan vest) with camera in hand or on a tripod and wearing an official name tag.  These are Disney PhotoPass Photographers who can take your picture when asked and then scan it onto either a PhotoPass Card or your MagicBand.

To claim your photos after your holiday is over, you will need to create an online account for Disney PhotoPass Service then enter the code from your PhotoPass Card or MagicBand to retrieve your photos.  Once you have retrieved your photos you can edit them with the multitude of options available for customization including stickers, borders and graphics.

As a word of warning, if you don’t purchase the photos taken by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers they will expire 45 days after they are taken so if you plan to use any of their photos in your Photo Book you need to create it within this time frame.

Disney offers a Memory Maker product for $199 that provides digital copies of all photos taken by their photographers and scanned to your PhotoPass Card or Magic Band.  Memory Maker can be purchased more than 3 days before your trip, at a reduced rate of $169.  Memory Maker appeals to many people who want to be able to post the pictures taken by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers to social media and/or share with friends and family.  You can then also print your photos for putting in an album or use for scrapbooking, etc.

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Now back to why I love the Disney PhotoBooks so much. My husband was a professional photographer for years and takes a LOT of pictures when we are away so we always have way more than enough photos for me to post to social media sites without having to purchase the Memory Maker package, so as great as it is, I prefer to use Disney PhotoPass website to create a Disney Photo Book.

I upload my favorite pictures taken by my husband and also use some from the Disney PhotoPass Photographers to make my album.  I get to pick my album cover, layout (pictures per page), background and stickers to make it exactly the way I want it.  Once finished, I place the order and a few weeks later this wonderful Photo Book arrives.  It is essentially a professionally produced hard cover book like I could purchase in a book store with good quality glossy paper for the pages.  The only difference is it is designed by me with the photos and comments I want.

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I know I could create a beautiful scrapbooked album myself but honestly I have better things to do with my time than print my photos, hunt for funky paper, cut and paste everything together all without monopolizing the kitchen table for a week or more, or having one of my cats think it’s a great game to scatter everything across the floor so I have to start all over again.

Aside from the reasons set out above, for me using Disney’s website to create my Photo Book and thereby show my Disney Side is more cost-effective.  The basic Disney Photo Book comes with 20 pages for $79.95 but you can add extra pages in increments of 2 for $3.50 each extra.  I always go over the original 20 pages.  I would end up paying way more than this if I purchased Memory Maker, scrapbook paper, an album and printed the photos.

Black photobook cover

There is also the option of just saving the photos my husband takes on our external hard drive to pull up and view on our computer when we want to but I personally prefer having a book to take to family events to show everyone or just to look back at and reminisce with the kids.  They are keepsakes filled with love that I cherish and they sit in a place of honour on my book shelf.

I can’t wait for my next one to arrive any day now.