Get to Know Your Customers the Disney Way, Part 1

disney_wayWalt Disney World enjoys a stellar and well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality service in the entertainment and resort industries. Have you ever wondered how Disney seems to know exactly what to do to provide its guests such a high level of service?

Disney learns what its guests want by…wait for it…asking them! Then Disney analyzes the information it gathers to adjust and improve its processes, procedures, and services to fulfill and exceed guest expectations. The collecting and analyzing of guest information and opinions is what Disney calls Guestology. Simply stated, Guestology is the art and science of knowing and understanding customers.

How do you learn about and understand your customers in order to deliver the highest quality scuba products and services? In this two-part series, we will focus on ways you can learn more about your customers and how to analyze the information you collect to enhance your dive center’s services and products in order to exceed your customers’ expectations.

Before it can fulfill its guests’ expectations, Disney needs to find out as much as it can about its guests. Disney employees a number of techniques to collect as much information as it can about its guests. Cast members (Disney employees) conduct face-to-face interviews at the main entrances to its parks. Disney makes comment cards available to guests throughout the parks and the resort areas. Guest service areas serve as “listening posts” where cast members answer questions, solve problems, and collect information. Disney also trains its cast members to informally listen and collect the opinions and observations from guests throughout the parks. Disney utilizes telephone surveys, emails and letters to query guests once they arrive back at home.

How do you gather information about your customers? Collecting some information such as their name and basic contact information is easy. Here are three ways you can begin collecting substantive information about your customers’ experiences at your dive center:

Conduct Course Specific Surveys

Hand out short survey cards at the end of each section of any scuba course rather than one long survey at the end. For instance, for a typical entry-level course, survey the academic, confined water, and open water experiences separately. By short we mean five questions or less. Customers are more likely to complete at least one of the short surveys rather than one long survey. Ask simple, specific questions about specific components of your dive center’s operations and services that require simple responses. For example, don’t ask “How was your overall classroom experience?” Instead ask questions like, “Were our staff members able to answer your questions?”, “Were the bathrooms clean?”, and “Were you physically comfortable in our classroom?”

Train Your Staff to Listen

You can’t interact with every customer and student that visits your dive center. You staff plays a large role in the customer service experience. Include as part of your staff training and development, guidance on how to formally and informally collect information from your customers. During sales interactions, a staff member can learn what customers like and dislike regarding products and services. Have your staff members listen to what customers say and what they do even if they browsing. Ask your staff you make notes about every customer interaction whether direct or indirect.

Contact Customers Directly

Sometimes survey cards and information relayed by staff members don’t provide a complete picture of your customer’s experiences. Periodically make it a point to personally call and speak with students and customers. They might share information with you that they didn’t share with your staff. Survey questions are limited and don’t always tell the complete story of a customer’s experience. Call them and ask them to elaborate on how they answered questions on your surveys. Can’t reach them by phone? Send an email.

You can’t improve your services unless you know what your customers want. You won’t know what they want until you ask them. Disney’s process for learning about its guests takes a lot of resources. For a small business like yours, just focus on these three action steps:

  • Conduct course specific surveys
  • Train your staff to listen, and
  • Contact and speak with your customers directly.

In the next article, we will examine how Disney analyses the information it collects, how it uses the information to improve the guest experience, and how you can do the same. For a more detailed examination of Disney’s customer service methodology, read Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, by The Disney Institute and Theodore Kinni, November 8, 2011.

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