How Disney Thinks Outside the Box for Guest Service Recovery

Nov 24, 2021
How Disney Thinks Outside the Box for Guest Service Recovery

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader is to prescribe how your employees provide service recovery.  Provide guidance, establish thresholds, and empower.  No prescription necessary. 


The Cinderella Guest

Several years ago, while leading the Guest Service Recovery team at Disney, I was asked to respond to a Guest that had written to our then President, Meg Crofton. The Guest brought his daughter to Disney for Christmas, and in his email, he shared concerns that the park was so crowded they were not able to ride many attractions or see many characters.  My first thought was to replace this Guest’s tickets so that they could come back and enjoy the park when it was less busy.  That was my first thought.  As was our process, I called the Guest to do some discovery work.  You may think “what is there to discover, the Guest came at Christmas and it was crowded”.  However, I did discover a few things:

  • The Guest was from the Midwest
  • He had a special needs adult daughter that loves Cinderella
  • They had been unable to see Cinderella due to the crowds
  • He had saved for years for this special trip for his daughter
  • He didn’t expect to be able to return to Florida for many years

On our call I thanked the Guest for writing.  I apologized for their disappointing experience and offered to the send the Guest a very special care package from Cinderella.  The Guest was ecstatic!  He thanked me profusely for my handling of the situation.  Upon receipt of the care package the Guest called me to thank me, and his daughter sent me a precious thank you note. 


Establishing Recovery Guidelines

This is just one example of a wide range of concerns that we received.  While there was general agreement as to how to recover each type of concern, rarely was there a situation that was an isolated concern.  It seems as though if a Guest is going to take the time to write to us, they were going to make sure they shared all of their thoughts … good, bad and ugly. 


At one point we initiated work to update the “if this issue, offer that recovery” type of grid.  There were so many variations that made each situation unique … was the Guest here for a day or a week, were they local or had they traveled some distance, were they annual passholders or had they purchased their tickets as a part of a vacation package, were they celebrating a special occasion while here, how many were in their party.  These, and many other factors, were drivers of how we would ultimately recover the Guest. 


When other areas found out my leadership team was working on updating our recovery guidelines there was wide spread interest. “We’ve been meaning to do that for a while … would you please share with us the final grid you end up with”. 


However – what we ended up with was not a grid.  It was guidance on how to think about recovery based on the category it fell in to – dining related, park related, resort related, transportation related, etc.  There was no “if X then Y” grid.  Each category started with “thank the Guest for the feedback” and “apologize for the disappointment”, but then included a range of options that could be used based on the individual circumstance.  And each ended with “or other recovery as appropriate”.  It was still sort of a grid … it was organized by category of concern.  However – we were asking our agents to think out of the box.  We wanted them to user their discretion based on a conversation with the Guest.   No grid could understand the impact of the service failure and appropriate recovery like a human talking to a human.  To emphasis this point – we literally had no lines on the page – the “grid” had no boxes. 


My handling of what I refer to as my “Cinderella Guest” was out of the box recovery that no “if X, then Y” grid could have prescribed. 


Sound Familiar?

Is your organization thinking out of the box?  Any customer recovery model includes a step called something like "solve the problem" or "make things right".  The key is to customize your approach based on your industry, your company, and your customer.  Making things right will look different from customer to customer.  Solving the problem will vary from situation to situation.  The art of recovery is putting the customer at the center of the process.   

If you are looking for someone to bring both art and science to your customer service operation, let’s jump on a call to see how we might work together.  Whether it’s an assessment of your existing operation, a roadmap for improvement or simply facilitating your leadership team through a work session to discover your gaps – I’d love to help YOU bring out the best your organization has to offer.


About Me:  

I’m Heather Havey.  My consulting business brings the art of Disney and science of GE to clients looking to transform their operations.  I help clients fix, build and grow their businesses through a unique combination of analytical skills, contact center leadership, project implementation experience and an obsession with employee and customer engagement.  

My passion for relationship building and six sigma discipline is infused into every project.   With 20 years at Disney combined with 10 years at GE, I am equipped to help clients improve their employee engagement, deliver a world class customer service experience and optimize their existing resources.

Whether you are a large service-oriented business with a desire to level up your customer service operation by benchmarking the Disney Guest experience, or a small to mid-sized business in growth mode looking to formalize customer service and recovery processes … I offer customized, no-nonsense, real-world solutions designed to position you as the hero in the reinvention of your business.     

Check out options for how we may be able to work together at .   

And if you think you could benefit from having an expert partner with real-world, action-oriented change solutions that will absolutely work, let’s chat.  In your free strategy session, we’ll get those ideas out of the clouds and onto the road to results.  Schedule a complimentary strategy session to talk about leveling up your employee satisfaction, customer experience and financial results.  


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