Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

How Disney Leaders Recover from a Service Failure

August 06, 2013 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

As a consumer, sometimes the most frustrating aspect of a service failure isn’t the problem, but rather the organization’s inability to fix the problem. But even when service is built into your organization’s foundational thinking, the reality is that the best-designed service processes will sometimes fail.

This is an opportunity for organizations to strengthen their relationship with the customer.

When service failure occurs, emotions become heightened — customers will likely care as much or more about how they are treated as they do about the outcome itself. This is why you must see the person, not just the issue.

At Disney, we recognize that a service failure may not always be our fault, but it is our problem. For that reason, Disney Institute recommends using the following method as a means of providing consistent service recovery:

Hear: And more specifically, listen. Give the customer the opportunity to tell their complete, uninterrupted story.

Empathize: Empathy creates an emotional connection, a trust that is crucial to demonstrating an authentic willingness and ability to help the customer. Consider using phrases like “If I were in your shoes…” and “Your reactions are completely normal…” to validate the customer’s feelings.

Apologize: Sometimes, this is all the customer is looking for. The power of a sincere apology should never be underestimated. You must take ownership and remember, the manner in which you apologize matters greatly — apologies cannot be scripted.

Resolve: Speed is critical to recovery and is best achieved when the maximum amount of authority possible is delegated to employees.

Diagnose: Seek perfection, settle for excellence. Remove any personal guilt and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.

The next time your customer experiences a service failure, make sure you hear, empathize, apologize, resolve and diagnose. 

Check back Thursday as we examine what happens when you simply cannot (or should not) give a customer what they are asking for during the resolution step.

Disney Institute is ready to help you apply strategic rigor to your customer experience efforts - call us at 321.939.4600 or complete our Contact Form

Posted in Quality Service | Tagged Excellent Customer Service, Effective Management, Customer Service Techniques, Customer Service Training, Customer Experience Improvement, Building Customer Relationships, Bruce Jones | 4 Comments

4 Responses to How Disney Leaders Recover from a Service Failure

  • Christine says:

    on August 06, 2013

    Great point, we all have bad experiences as customers but how a company handles it can really make a difference in our impression when we walk away from that situation. As a manager of a child care organization, we use a similar system with our clients but my first step is always THANK. We thank the customer for sharing their experience and giving us a chance to fix the situation and rebuild that good relationship rather than just walking away and carrying that negative impression forever.

  • charlie says:

    on August 06, 2013

    This is exactly why so many in business look up to, and turn to, Disney. Nobody puts more thought, energy and effort into customer service.

  • Robert says:

    on August 06, 2013

    When these principles are taught or learned, you want to believe every situation has a positive outcome. I have witnessed even at Disney employees exhibiting these techniques and doing a good job at it, but the situation did not end favorably. In the end Disney's company policies had to be upheld even though the customer was not 100% at fault either. The guest spoke to two levels of management at Disney and requested a third to try to resolve the issue in their favor, but every level at Disney gave same answer and stuck to policy using the above techniques. Customer turned in his Disney resort key and swore off ever returning and left. I believe the Disney employees did their best, but I do not think the result was ideal either. It is clear a service failure happened, but sometimes you have to uphold policy and you use the techniques, but it does not mean every situation ends positively.

  • Linda says:

    on August 08, 2013

    I like the idea of looking at process (i.e. policies, procedures). I had a discussion at my work in a Complex Care Facility (Nursing Home) with an administrative staff member. I realize that when a client has an appointment outside of our facility - there is sometimes errors made (sometimes by our staff and sometimes by the outside office). Regardless of where the errors originate - we end up with very dissatisfied clients and their families (and rightfully so). I proposed a new appointment schedule/communication form which will assist our staff to ask the necessary questions and get the necessary information so that the process of outside appointments is smooth and effortless for everyone involved. My administrative colleague kept insisting that the status quo was adequate - but I pointed out several recent situations when errors occurred. She was quick to lay blame with other offices or even our own staff members. I stressed that it does not matter where the mis-communication originates - it matters that we do everything that we can to ensure that it doesn't happen. Our clients will ultimately be upset and whether it is "our fault" or "someone elses' fault" is really no consolation to someone who has been severely inconvenienced. A upset client can lead to positive change for all involved if handled properly and concentration is spent on improving and what we CAN do.

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