Another Lesson from Disney: One Trick That Treats Your Customers (and Employees)

Tripp Babbitt

The customer service business can be scary. Customers saddle service companies with demands that are sometimes hard to satisfy. However, it is service organizations that are inflicting pain, torture and suffering in a masochistic way.

My recent trip to Disney allowed me to use a discount card called Tables in Wonderland. Each time I used the card, I noticed it took a long time to run my credit card. By the third restaurant using the card I discovered why. Management had to approve each use of the Tables in Wonderland card; servers, apparently, were not to be trusted.

As a customer, I had to wait—sometimes for as long as 30 minutes—for the server or cashier to get approval. Did we hire the wrong people or just kill’em with the bad system that they have to work in?

There you go . . . one of the biggest wastes in business . . . the management approval.

This is not limited to Disney by any stretch of the imagination. Service organizations, government and manufacturing all have the same issue. Some claim, regulation, some government , but the reality is when it gets down to it, it isn’t the law that gets in the way. It is the thinking and interpretation of the law.

Sarbanes-Oxley was put into place because CEOs were treating their companies like their own personal banks. Many companies wrongly focus their attention to the front-line activities for compliance, but SARBOX was to alleviate corporate greed. Notice any of the auditors or compliance folks breathing down the necks of executives – can anyone say "awkward?"

When service has to wait, a cost is incurred. Sometimes that cost is in the process of seeking approval. A bank with which I was working dealt with customer discrepancies in interest rates by having a contact center agent escalate to the contact center manager. Then, after 3 more levels of authorization, the agent would finally get approval. Sometimes this took up to two months and evidence was found that most of the time the customer had to chase the issue many times. I asked the contact center manager how often he was denied approval and he said, "never."

Let’s add the costs. Cost of dealing with the failure demand – all those calls to chase the authorization adds to volume of calls. This is why I say that reducing failure demand offers a huge cost savings for organizations. The cost of waiting and following up internally is enormous. The loss of customer for future products and reputation damage are unknown.

The issue that organizations need to address is trust. Designing systems for the 1/10 of 1% of people that cheat, disregards both customers and employees that try to do the right thing. Designing systems that don’t trust people is making your own bed--you get what you designed for in service. Build a costly system full of audits, inspection and with compliance rules and policies, you build a culture of mistrust.

Design systems that help customers get what they need, and you will rarely have a compliance, culture or customer issue.