Systems Thinking

The Mouse Cages the Customer With Entrapping Call Center Technology

Tripp Babbitt
Contributor: Tripp Babbitt
Posted: 03/24/2010

Don’t get me wrong, I visit "the House the Mouse built" at least once every year. I’m a loyal customer. This time of year I attend the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) as it coincides with my wedding anniversary. I make my reservations through the Disney World Central Reservations line.

This time however I got a bit of a surprise. The IVR (interactive voice response) system is voice activated now and combines reservations for Walt Disney World and Disneyland. In addition, the IVR asks the customer "why you are calling?" When I responded "reservations inquiry" (as I’m a resort customer and had an inquiry about resort reservations) the system said "Oh, Dining Reservations" and proceeded down the wrong track. Some will say I am at fault for not being explicit, but who is the customer here? Apparently, the customer has to adjust to the Disney IVR and the Disney system.

So, I call back adjusting my response to fit their IVR system.

The Steep Climb Up the Disney IVR Menu Tree

Me: Resort reservation inquiry

IVR: OK, Resort reservations (not really what I wanted as we’ll see later) What would you like to do? Would you like a new, modify…or ask a question?

Me: Ask a question.

Disney IVR: Are you calling about a Disney Vacation package?

Me: No (wasn’t sure how to answer this, I was afraid of the response "maybe").

Disney IVR: Does your party have 8 or more people?

Me: No.

Disney IVR: Have you been to Walt Disney World before?

Me: Yes.

Disney IVR: Have you visited at least once since 2004?

Me: Yes.

Disney IVR: Have you visited five or more times in your lifetime?

Me: Yes.

Disney IVR: OK, please enter your resort reservation number.

Me (to myself): Oops haven’t deciphered the new system yet, resort reservation inquiry = existing reservation...hang-up.

Entrapping Your Customer With Tangled Call Center Technology


When I eventually reach the call center representative on the phone, the call center representative wants more information about me and my family. This must be customer relationship management (crm) at work . . . you know, but more intrusive crm. I am not sure I got the call center "specialist" I was promised, but I eventually got the information I needed . . . about 60 minutes later.

The Disney IVR is an example of more entrapping call center technology that adds no value to the customer, way too many branches. And a perceived five to ten minute phone conversation turns into almost an hour with two call backs. This Disney IVR system neither saves money nor improves customer service.

  • How many misroute themselves?
  • How many people would give up after the first 2 calls?

Unknown and unknowable, but the cost accountants think putting off customer demand or self-routing saves money.

Designing More Customer-Centric IVR Systems


I have more creative and clever ideas to apply systems thinking call center management and IVR solutions. These are counter-intuitive, but would save Disney (and any other service organization) huge sums of money.

The three steps to a more customer-centric IVR include:

  1. Understand customer demand and the variety posed by the customer.
  2. Get measures associated with these customer demands.
  3. Design against demand.

In many cases, we find no need for a call center IVR system . . . a call center management paradox. Also (a free-be for Disney), combining Disney World and Disneyland call center calls does not necessarily decrease costs. In most cases it increases them. This step-by-step method will help lower call center costs profoundly and increase customer satisfaction.

Tripp Babbitt
Contributor: Tripp Babbitt
Posted: 03/24/2010

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