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Customer Service, Disney Style: What If You Can’t Give a Customer What They Want?

April 07, 2015 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.” Sound familiar? I’m sure, at one point or another, we have all heard a response like this from a business or organization when dealing with a service failure. It’s frustrating; it’s aggravating; and it can significantly damage the relationship we have with the company or brand, sometimes forever.

Now, let’s think about this experience from the opposite perspective—as a service provider. What if a service failure has occurred and you want to provide service recovery, but you simply cannot give the customer what they are asking for? While every situation is different, there will be cases when you cannot (or should not) give a customer what they are asking for—you have to say “no.” What happens now?

At Disney Institute, we believe that the heart of service recovery is to pursue the reconciliation of the relationship, not just the resolution of the issue.

Very often, the reality is that when you must deliver a “no” message, the opportunity for preserving – and strengthening - the customer relationship has just presented itself. Here are two critical components that can help with this scenario:

  • Explain the reason for the decision. Customers are generally happier with a difficult decision when they understand the reason behind it. Without an explanation, you may be perceived as insensitive or that you are hiding behind a policy—which further aggravates the situation and can infuriate the customer.
  • Provide some offsetting consideration for the customer’s disappointment. It’s far too easy to say, “Those are the rules” or “That’s just our policy,” and leave it at that. Remember, this is now about saving the relationship with your customer. By training service providers and empowering them with service standards and guidelines for recovery, this becomes an opportunity to turn potential negatives into “wins”.for your customers and for your employees.

Want to learn more? Consider enrolling in our Disney’s Approach to Quality Service professional development course, where we further explore how to recover effectively from a service failure and turn it into an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships. Or, take a look at Why We Must Assume the Customer Experience Will Go Viral and A Perspective On ‘The Customer is Always Right.’

How do you preserve customer relationships when you have to say “no?”


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Disney Institute uses business insights and time-tested examples from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide to provide relevant illustrations and engaging stories that help you develop the customer experience culture you are capable of delivering. With professional development courses offered by Disney Institute, you will discover ways to positively impact your organization and the customers you serve as you are immersed in leadership, culture, service and beyond.


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 Customer Experience, CX, Customer Service, Service Recovery, Quality Service, Service, Guest Service, Service Training, Bruce Jones


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