Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

What Happens When You Can’t Give a Customer What They Want

August 08, 2013 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

A service failure has occurred and you owe it to the customer to provide a recovery, but you simply cannot give the customer what they are asking for. What happens now?

As we discussed on Tuesday, sometimes even the most service-minded organizations experience a service failure. Savvy organizations understand that this type of failure still bears an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships by providing a service recovery. Delegating power to front-line employees helps ensure a more timely recovery, but there will be cases when you cannot (or should not) give a customer what they are asking for — you have to say “no.”

We posed this question yesterday in during our D’Think Chat and received several reactions:

Beth and Kevin reiterate key components of delivering the “no” message:
1. Always looking for some offsetting consideration (compensation) for the customer’s disappointment. It’s just too easy for an organization to say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do” or “That’s just our policy.” As Kevin points out, it’s important that boundaries are carefully defined during training so that employees have the ability to resolve the issue to the very best of their ability.

2. You MUST explain the reason for the decision or policy. Customers are generally happier with a policy when they understand the reason behind it. Without an explanation, you may be perceived as an insensitive bureaucrat, or that you are hiding behind a policy — this only infuriates the customer.

How do you believe an organization can say "no" to a customer? Have you ever been told no? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Join our next D’Think Chat on Septemeber 4 as we discuss the Disney approach to leadership excellence.

Image: Flickr User Steve Snodgrass

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Posted in Quality Service | Tagged Excellent Customer Service, Corporate Culture, Corporate Training, Customer Service Training, Customer Service Techniques, Customer Experience Improvement, Bruce Jones | 5 Comments

5 Responses to What Happens When You Can’t Give a Customer What They Want

  • karen says:

    on August 08, 2013

    As a professional and an administrator, It's refreshing to read this . However, having had a very negative experience with the Disney Cruise Line , I would like to suggest that perhaps you reiterate this concept to some of the Disney Staff. In all of my years, I haven't ever been treated so poorly, and it was a real surprise.

  • Daniel says:

    on August 08, 2013

    We should stop focusing on the things that we cannot do for him and we can explain the things that we can. In other words, give him alternatives and stop saying we can´t do that for you, becaus it's our policy.

  • Charles says:

    on August 08, 2013

    Interestingly, as an avid Disney fan and stockholder I have to say I've seen a marked change by Disney park employees ("Cast Members"). There was a time when most would do whatever they could to embrace and extend "the magic". In recent years as staffing has been cut, resources shortened and personnel generally over-worked, I have found it to be less and less the case. Now it seems that park employees look for the quickest and easiest way out of a question, even if it's an attempt to give them money but there's the slightest glitch. One example, I wanted to purchase a bracelet for my wife from the Downtown Jewelers on Main St in the MK. They could not find a price tag on the bracelet on display and rather than research it they declined to sell it to me. I pushed back and eventually they found a manager who was quickly able to determine price and complete the sale. I would discount this except that this sort of thing has happened so many times in the past 5 years. Disney's principles are right but they've pushed efficiency to the point of damaging efficacy. There's a compromise.

  • Christopher says:

    on August 08, 2013

    I once stayed at a WDW value resort with the perception of "It's Disney. How bad could their value resort be?! and if I do have a problem, it's Disney, they'll fix it." and "Gwarsh!" was I wrong. I understand that most of the Cast were College Program participants, but never have I encountered such poor service...to the point where I had to stop and inform the CM that she was arguing and "yelling" at her guest (me). I am a former-oldschool CM from the days of the Walt Disney Gallery - and if I treated my guest the same way, my manager would've fired me on the spot! As Disney CM we were rarely allowed to say "No." to our guests - in fact we were encouraged to find ways to say "yes" and make the guest happy. Those were seemingly the less economically-greedy days of Disney gone-by.

  • Carrie says:

    on August 08, 2013

    I also think that these, along with "Mickey Magic" should be reiterated to all cast members. I have been going to Disney for 10 years now, usually twice a year, usually for about a month. I have noticed a major decline in the friendliness, "magicalness", customer service, and overall happiness of Disney World. This also happens in Disney Stores across the country. I am very disappointed in the way things are handled when there is a problem. Last fall we were dining at The Pepper Market when the one young boy in our party asked for another glass of Sprite. The waitress or whatever they are there, brought over a glass for him. When he started drinking it we noticed there was something in it. It was a piece of chewed gum. How absolutely disgusting is that? The "waitress", who barely spoke English, mumbled something, then brought over another glass, free of gum. That was all. I tried to contact Disney about the situation, but since I didn't have the receipt (who manages to not lose a couple of receipts when on vacation for a month?), they weren't able to do anything for me. All of our meals were ruined, the boy made himself sick thinking about it, and it was left just like that. I don't find that right no matter where you are, let alone Disney. Disney is supposed to be the one place that everything is Magical, customer service is #1. Everyone used to say, "Have a Magical Day." Now you're lucky if you get a grunt from them.

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