Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ten Steps to a Better EPCOT: Step No. 4


Step No. 4: Improve the Service

Perhaps it's because I spend more time at EPCOT than any other park during trips to Walt Disney World. Perhaps it's because I've got a high expectation of what Disney service should be. Or perhaps, and quite possibly, it's because I hold EPCOT to a higher standard than any other theme park, whether on or off Disney property.

But lately ... well, I hate to say it, the service at EPCOT is kind of lousy.

Nevermind those obnoxious, pesky Ballzac folks; I've already covered that. But when I think about my last trip to EPCOT, the poor performance of most cast members really stands out. There were exceptions, there's no doubt about that, like Sinead, the lovely server at the Rose and Crown Pub. Or the two hosts at Spaceship Earth (I'm sorry, I didn't catch your names) who actually smiled and said hello before asking how many were in the party and seating us in our "time machines."

More, though, I think about Brenda and her pals over at Soarin', who were having far too good a time doing each others' hair and talking about the weekend -- and when I asked if they could possibly look in on the queue and be concerned about the "show" they were providing for guests, flat-out asked me: "Pardon me -- do you work here? Why do you care what we're doing?"

I think about the intensely bored look on the face of the ride operator at Maelstrom who seemed to be alone in the show building and didn't really care that the queue area was strewn with trash.

I think of the women staffing the coffee cart outside of the Canada pavilion, who didn't care what they left on the counters, in full view of guests, and who expressed confusion when one guest (not me) ordered an espresso. Even though it was there on the menu, they didn't know how to make it and didn't know how to ring it up.

I think about the German cast members all huddled around the check-in desk outside Biergarten, backs turned to the guests, giggling and laughing in German (which one person in our party understands fluently). Let's just say their conversation wouldn't have been advisable in any guest-oriented setting if it were being held in English.

I think about the cast members in the Mexico pavilion who were shutting down their retail locations a good hour before the park closed.

I think about the angry-looking server at the Fountain View ice cream restaurant who kept wiping her chocolate stained hands all over her costume and told people, "Go stand over there" after they ordered.

This was not a pleasant visit.

Disney service used to be without peer and virtually flawless. Now the great experiences are becoming increasingly rare.
In a park that is supposed to present an idealized vision of a future world and showcase the humanity of our different cultures, it seems to me a greater effort could be made to train and educate cast members about interacting with the public.

No doubt, Disney has had a harder time attracting and retaining entry-level cast members. Frankly, I'm always impressed by those who do shine, because it's hard not to remember that they are people who aren't getting paid very well. But for the growing numbers who seem like they couldn't care less about where they work, there's something important to remember:

Those guests you're serving, the ones you're ignoring, the ones you'd rather didn't bother you -- they've paid a lot of money to be here, and they've been told to expect a vision of the future and a journey to places they may never otherwise get to visit. There is a show going on here, a show with a message that is distinct and different from anything else in this Disney World. Perhaps it's not your fault that you're not excelling ... more likely, it's the fault of managers who are told to cut costs, to keep things moving and to care less about "show" than about profits.

So, then, for EPCOT managers, a plea: Show some concern for the guests and the show they're seeing at this amazing place. Even if the attractions sometimes underwhelm, your cast members can make the difference between a humdrum day and a fantastic experience. Spend some time teaching them about what makes EPCOT so rare, and you may just find they pass their knowledge, their pride and their excitement on to guests.

33 comments:

Robert said...

I couldn't agree more. The wife and I were at Epcot for extra magic hours on our last trip and the guide said that the restaurant in Morocco would still be open. When we tried to get seating we were told that the restaurant was closed. The hostess refused to even look at the guide saying they were open. When we asked guest relations about it they said that the guide was wrong. It was all a very dissatisfying experience. I really hope they start addressing things.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed the attitude in some of the ride operators. Really dull. However Mitsukoshi Department store always seems to have smiling faces. The night I went shopping in the land of the rising sun was a busy one because one of the cash registers broke down. Despite this trouble the female cashier had the happiest smiling face as she gladly wrote my name in Japanese on the paper fan I purchased. This was in 2006 and is a memory I'll never forget. She represented her nation well. And the egg painter in Germany told us the story of St. George in 2 different visits with a smiling face. I'd like to hear your views on Japan's innovative new Tokyo Dining because it really sums up Japan's modern attitude of "moving-forward." My friend says the service is amazing and the cast is always smiling and bowing to guests. Leave it to Japan to be welcoming. :) - Mike Hitchcock

mark said...

I have to say that when my wife, daughter, and I went in October of 2006 the service was largely excellent, with smiling faces and good humor all around. There were two notable exceptions (one, a ride operator at Thunder Mountain, the other a host at the Pepper Market at the Coronado), but I think that's forgivable on a ten day trip.

I hope things haven't deteriorated COMPLETELY in the year and a half since we've been. We're going back in four weeks.

Epcot82 said...

Japan is famous for its extraordinary levels of service, and the cast members they bring to EPCOT embody this spirit well. You're right -- Japan consistently and always shows off what should be done, and to me it's always a pleasure to visit the Japan pavilion! (A trip to Tokyo Disneyland really shows what's wrong with American service!)

That said, I don't care at all for the Tokyo dining refurbishments. They feel another step toward making EPCOT dining bland, at least in presentation. No doubt, from a food standpoint, it's actually quite good. But I feel I've stepped foot into a restaurant at a nameless international airport thanks to the refurbishment. There's little charm, ambience and flavor of Japan. Modern Tokyo, perhaps -- they have caught that well. But modern Tokyo feels so much like modern New York or modern Los Angeles that there's little reflection of culture, heritage or history there. Although many deride them as "kitschy," I still enjoy Biergarten, Akershus (pre-Princess!), Les Chefs de France and Rose & Crown simply because, while perhaps being a little simplistic, they at least try to impart the spirit of a country's culture, particularly for those many, many Americans who never set foot outside of the United States.

I love the food and the SERVICE at the new Tokyo Dining. The atmostphere leaves much to be desired.

Chris said...

I've noticed the attitude in some of the ride operators. Really dull. However Mitsukoshi Department store always seems to have smiling faces. The night I went shopping in the land of the rising sun was a busy one because one of the cash registers broke down. Despite this trouble the female cashier had the happiest smiling face as she gladly wrote my name in Japanese on the paper fan I purchased. This was in 2006 and is a memory I'll never forget. She represented her nation well. And the egg painter in Germany told us the story of St. George in 2 different visits with a smiling face. I'd like to hear your views on Japan's innovative new Tokyo Dining because it really sums up Japan's modern attitude of "moving-forward." My friend says the service is amazing and the cast is always smiling and bowing to guests. Leave it to Japan to be welcoming. :) - Mike Hitchcock


I had the opportunity to personally work with many of the ladies at Mitsukoshi (and the China store as well), and yes, they are very friendly and always seem to be in good spirits. I went to Tokyo Dining recently as well and they take service to a whole new level. There's constant bows and 3-4 people going to each table with different things.

Anonymous said...

and when I asked if they could possibly look in on the queue and be concerned about the "show" they were providing for guests, flat-out asked me: "Pardon me -- do you work here? Why do you care what we're doing?"

Regardless of your passion for EPCOT, that wasn't a question appropriate for you to ask them. Perhaps you could've found a supervisor on duty to notify, but to simply make that comment to a couple of cast members honestly is misplaced.

That said, I can't say that I saw any of this monkeying around when I was at EPCOT in January. The best part of the day was when they did a countdown to the park opening and all the cast members were waving and smiling and wishing you a good day for all the things you will see! It really pumped me up. I saw Mickey Mouse doing this goofy little dance that my grandfather used to do when he was being silly, and it made me feel like he was looking down at my family from Heaven.

Morocco restaurant was AMAZING! We saw a belly dancer, and our waitress didn't write down anything that our party of 6 ordered - she memorized it all! She served everything with a neat flair that is hard to describe.

From my experience, these sorts of "non-involved cast members" are the exception, instead of the rule.

Edgehopper said...

I've heard these complaints, but on our trip in Summer '06, we didn't have any problems. Some of the best customer service:

The staff at the Le Cellier Steakhouse (Definitely a place I'd go again, and there's just enough Canadian-ness to the menu to differentiate it from an excellent American steakhouse. Changing it from a cafeteria to a steakhouse was an excellent move.)

The staff at Bistro de Paris (The waiter was wonderfully tolerant of my sister's attempts to order in French, and my attempts to show her up by doing so correctly :))

Off topic: In general, the synergy between the World Showcase restaurants and the Disney Dining plan was one of the greatest ideas WDW's implemented in the last few years, and was the main reason we decided to make that trip to WDW in 2006.

Matt Hunter Ross said...

Again, here's another criticism of society, not just Disney - I think people have been complaining about declining customer service since the 50s, and rightly so.

Then again, as you've stated, most day-to-day employees don't make very much (and the benefits aren't great either, I've heard) - not that that's a reason for poor performance. You'd think that no matter what job a personal holds, it's a reflection of him/herself personally, and they'd realize that 'climbing the ladder' is not a 'walk in the park'.

Anyway, in 2006, I took my wife to Morocco (since having great memories about it from my childhood), and the waiter and kitchen staff were (in short) not professional - not a great experience. Also, we did encounter the occasional bad seed, but as Anonymous said, it was the exception, not the rule. I guess in some respects, these are still individuals, and sometimes things go wrong; sometimes people have bad days.

Yet again, I agree with the overall decline of customer service everywhere in America, especially Disney. Also, without trying to generalize, I agree with the comments on the Asian cultures - having many friends from Asian countries, graciousness and hospitality are very true. Even if there are personal problems, most of the time, it never shows on the facade (to a friend, or a customer).

Epcot82, keep up the good work. Even if some think your comments are far-fetched, at least they start a dialogue. Kudos.

John said...

Regardless of your passion for EPCOT, that wasn't a question appropriate for you to ask them. Perhaps you could've found a supervisor on duty to notify, but to simply make that comment to a couple of cast members honestly is misplaced.

I totally disagree. For anywhere from thirty to seventy bucks a pop, it is absolutely fair to expect a world-class level of service. Remember the phrase "the customer is always right"? It has been forgotten these days.

As I seem to recall, Epcot Central's writer/owner worked for Disney for quite a long time and probably knows what to expect and how to talk to CM's. Maybe he just pulled them aside to talk to them, who knows? But even if a customer says "You're ugly and I don't like you," as a service worker you're supposed to let them vent their frustrations and express their thoughts. Sorry folks, but that's just the way I was raised. I spent many years in service and my manager could have come from Disney, she was so focused on the customer experience and cleanliness and friendliness. We had people yell in our faces, we had them tell us we were idiots, we had them shout at us to come serve them ... and we did. Sometimes we would say very quietly, "Please don't shout at me" but mostly we would swallow our pride and realize that, in the eyes of a PAYING CUSTOMER, we apparently weren't providing the service they expected.

Like I said, I think those days are long gone-- but with proper training, DIsney could remind everyone else of the way it SHOULD be done. They USED to be able to do that!

Anonymous said...

"As I seem to recall, Epcot Central's writer/owner worked for Disney for quite a long time and probably knows what to expect and how to talk to CM's."

I personally would love to hear about it - or did you blog about it before?

Epcot82 said...

While I don't want to make this a main post, I hope people will read down this far so I can clarify the situation at Soarin', which I referred to in the original post.

It is correct that I was in non-theme-park Disney management for close to a decade, based out of Burbank. In that role, I traveled to Walt Disney World a minimum of four times a year, and got to know many full-time Cast Members and managers. They have a tough job, there's no doubt about that. I also remain a Disney fan and keenly aware of the need to maintain "show" at all times.

As my party was standing in the queue area for Soarin', we were stopped at the head of the line while the show before us cycled through. Unfortunately for Disney, this part of the queue is not particularly well designed, and there's nothing to look at or do -- except to stand there and look at blank walls.

I feel for the Cast Members stationed at this junction, because it's not a very kinetic, interesting place to be.

On the day I visited, there seemed to be three cast members, ostensibly one to manage the front of the queue and two to assist guests standing in the holding areas prior to boarding. Given that there's nothing at all to do in this area of the queue, my eye was drawn to the activities of these three Cast Members.

Despite the fact that there were dozens of people in each holding area and hundreds behind us in the main queue, these particular Cast Members seemed completely oblivious to the guests. One of them told another to turn around and started to braid her hair. The other walked back and forth and kicked the wall with her foot, before coming up to the others and saying, loudly enough for all to hear, "What are you guys going to do this weekend?" They then launched into a giggle-filled conversation about their plans, all the while fiddling with the other Cast Member's hair. Meanwhile, there were children crying in the queue, there were people poking their head out of the holding areas apparently wondering when they were going to go inside, and the three Cast Members just stood there socializing. The hair-braiding part was especially galling to my sensibilities.

After a few moments, one of the Cast Members got onto the PA system and started making an announcement, but every time she looked at her co-workers, they would make a face at her, and she would start laughing loudly. Most of her spiel was incomprehensible over the laughter.

There seemed to be an awfully long delay in boarding the waiting group, and at least eight or nine minutes passed with increasingly restless guests, but they continued the beauty-and-gab session.

It was at that point, listening to guests around me saying, "What's going on?" and "Why aren't we moving?" that I walked up to the two hair-braiding Cast Members and said, "Can I have a word with you?" I did it quietly and without fuss. They both looked incensed that I would bother their "fun time."

Then, as calmly as I could, I said, "There are a lot of people wondering what is going on. Perhaps you could stop socializing and come see the guests in line?" I did not get confrontational, I did not speak loudly, I did not express anger. I did, however, reach my last straw in terms of what I was trained in my Disney days to view as acceptable when "on stage."

As far as these Cast Members were concerned, I could have been a senior executive with Disney; I could have been a travel writer; I could have been a guest who had a serious issue that needed attention. It shouldn't matter who I was or why I was approaching them.

I was always taught that the concept of "on stage" is just that: Cast Members are performing when they are working, and they are part of an overall show for the guests. They are not supposed to "break character."

I didn't say any of that. I did, as inconspicuously as possible, raise a concern directly with the Cast Member who was on stage.

In my experience, raising the issue with a manager either results in no action at all (as managers are trained to diffuse guest comments, not respond to them) or in such serious action (such as reprimand or termination) that this situation did not warrant.

In the end, the Cast Member's rude and inappropriate response, which was said loudly enough to be heard by the guests around me, and was repeated in an "are-you-listening-to-me-I'm-talking-you" sort of manner, and the overall situation just made me sad.

And in the time I spent at Walt Disney World, the cast members at Epcot were alone in exhibiting this sort of indifferent, sometimes unpleasant, attitude.

Anonymous said...

This complaint is silly. Its akin to moaning about the kid behind the counter at Burger King. Disney can fire the offenders and replace them, but with so many low-level, low-paying jobs in the theme parks is it really any wonder this happens?

The people who take these jobs are obviously not in it for the money. They are typically people that are in a transitional stage of life (college, early retirement) and are looking for a place to work that offers a different experience.

If any of you worked in a high-volume service job for a while, you'd know how difficult it is to remain mentally stimulated (not just moving your hands) and happy the entire time.

Disney College Program is part of the problem. Why would anyone try hard when there is virtually no ladder to climb? The majority of the workforce has a limited run at their jobs and leaves, with many never to returning to the company (or the US). The model itself is flawed.

Epcot started using the college program kids around 1986. Over the years, the amount of college kids vs. non-college staff has grown. If all the college program kids dropped out today, Disney would not be able to operate Epcot.

To top it off, many of the students enrolled do not list Epcot as their first choice. Obviously if you hail from a country represented in World Showcase, you're pretty much pigeon-holed into that role. I have yet to see many overseas cast members in other parts of the parks.

You really need to understand what is going on here. Disney has been hiring people and has no real means to manage long-term incentives. The problem isn't the managers, its the way they do staffing.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree. For anywhere from thirty to seventy bucks a pop, it is absolutely fair to expect a world-class level of service. Remember the phrase "the customer is always right"? It has been forgotten these days.

It hasn't been forgotten, it has been scoffed at because it is a lie.

But, cynicism aside, it is inappropriate to say that to those folks. If you have a complaint, speak with the supervisor on duty. It's really that simple. It is the supervisor's job to make sure they are maintaining customer service standards, and if the person is lagging, the supervisor needs to see to it that these folks shape up. I don't think you would like it if I told you how to do your job.

Epcot82 said...

Strange thing is, Anonymous, I'm told that every day ... and not just by my clients (customers) but by my bosses.

I appreciate that there are many people who feel I should never have approached the Cast Members.

On the other hand, shouldn't it work both ways? I've heard Cast Members tell people to "step aside for the next guest while you make up your mind" at food counters, I've heard Cast Members tell guests that "you need to order what's on the menu." (These are snippets of conversations I vividly recall overhearing.) I don't think it's quite right for a Cast Member to tell a guest how to behave, but to say it's not appropriate for a guest to tell a Cast Member how to behave.

That incident aside, I stand by my original suggestion to making Epcot better: Improve the service. Whatever the reasons behind it, guest service is suffering there, and it couldn't exactly hurt anyone if Disney redoubled its efforts to improve the service its guests receive.

Could it?

Tuckenie said...

As a current trainer at World of Disney I can offer a little perspective. The cast members at Soarin' fit the description of CP's perfectly and in that situation you were not only correct to approach them (to Disney the guest IS almost always right) but would've been correct to approach a manager. Disney DOES still hold itself to a very high standard of guest service so it's always sad to hear stories where someone has had an unpleasant experience. It's entirely possible that the CM's at Soarin' had reasons behind their actions but without speaking with a leader it probably wasn't understood exactly what the guest perception of their actions was and one of the mantras we repeat a lot at Disney is that "Perception is reality".

It's true that CP's have little real incentive to perform well if they don't want to succeed with the company but it's also true that many CP's who return to the company have the experience and connections to move ahead in a matter of months if they worked hard and made those connections as CPs. What happens is many are just their for the job or don't care and those are the ones who are termed early and find they can't even use Disney references when they apply for jobs elsewhere.

As to the rest of the very well written post by epcot82 I will say that one of my best and favorite leaders has recently been promoted to head Epcot's training dept. and he's exactly the kind of hard worker and passionate leader Epcot could use to improve the training of the CMs in the future. Theme park experiences CAN be subjective sometimes but hopefully in the future you'll return and find better guest service. Love the blog by the way. Keep writing.

Epcot82 said...

Tuckenie, thank you for your comments. I am heartened to see Disney has someone who genuinely cares about quality in a training position. I hope you will continue finding your position rewarding, and hope that your friend who is now at EPCOT will be able to take the constructive criticism I offered in the vein intended.

Obviously, many disagree with the way I handled the situation. Similarly, I don't always agree with the horrid way guests behave in the parks. (I never do, but am always tempted to lash out at those parents berating their children for being tired and cranky after a long day at the park. They're children, for crying out loud!) I try to refrain from any commentary. In this case, it was just too much.

You're right, it's possible they had reasons. Though in this particular instance, what the reasons were for braiding another Cast Member's hair while in front of guests is something I'm just not sure I understand. ;-)

Your observations are terrific and a wonderful addition to EPCOT Central. Thanks for posting them, Tuckenie!

Anonymous said...

Your last post hints at a major problem that I've been thinking about the entire time I read through these comments: The Guests. While I may have encountered a few less-than-stellar cast members here and there, my last visit to Disney was unparalleled in the annoying guest arena. I have never left Disney before feeling that I may not want to go back...

And it is much much worse that people yelling at their kids. Almost every ride and show included people taking photos, talking loudly, and just generally being rude. I stopped going to movie theaters for this reason...and I hope it doesn't mean I have to stop going to Disney. I guess it is not surprising that some of this selfish attitude has spilled over into the cast, when it is so prevalent in the general population.

GeorgeKirk said...

My wife and I were at EPCOT last Labor Day weekend, and I don't recall any bad experiences with the service, but we did decide not to eat at the Coral Reef restaurant after reading the review on wdwinfo.com wherein the writer recieved poor service. So you're not the only one to notice this.

Dave Barry once wrote that the reason Disney Ccst members are so friendly is that Walt foresaw that there'd be a shortage of friendly people in the future, so he cryogenically froze a bunch of them in 1955, and Disney has been thawing them out as needed ever since. Maybe they've finally run out.

Josh said...

In the general population, affecting both the guest and CM pool, there has been a serious decline of common courtesy in recent years, let alone in stellar customer service.

I don't know what the root cause of the problem is, but it is prevalent everywhere. I am saddened to see it invading WDW, as I've always held the CMs there in very high regard.

While I've never had a 'bad' experience with any CMs, I've had plenty of helpings of mediocrity, and that's disheartening in its own unique way.

I have become increasingly frustrated with the guests I encounter in my visits to the parks. Sure, you strike up a conversation with one or two very cool people on the transportation system or while you're waiting in a queue, but the majority of my encounters have consisted, lately, of being run over by stroller moms and dads, being bumped by rookie ECV-drivers, having sullen teens mock the attractions - loudly - in the middle of a ride or show, etc.

I'd sure love to see courtesy make a comeback.

Cosplay-chan said...

"Remember the phrase "the customer is always right"? It has been forgotten these days."

Thats because its wrong. The customer is NOT always right. Saying that they are gives preferential treatment to bad customers who demand more than their fair share, while making good patient customers wait. It also undermines the level of respect between employee and management. Customers come and go, but your employees will still be there afterwards. Having worked at EPCOT before, I can say that guests make ridiculous demands at times, ruining the experience for many. For example, one day when I was stationed (custodial) at the Land pavilion, I heard a crying child. Now my thing when I heard an unhappy child, was to find them, talk to them (usually in all the chaos parents forget to give their child a slight amount of attention, which can make all the difference.) I would ask them what was wrong, I would say that theres no need to cry here, because who nows what oyu might miss. At this point, I'd show them the card that "tinkerbell gave me", a hummer card flying card trick. I also carried around small toys and stickers to give to them, usually they walked away so much happier. Anyway, I hear this child crying, and I go up to it trying my usual routine. This is right in front of a character dining restaurant called "Garden Grill". As soon as I start to work my charm on the kid I hear the mother screaming "DONT YOU DARE TALK TO HIM!" Apparently the mother and father were furious that Mickey was in that restaurant and her kid couldnt go see him without them eating there (thats how character dining works, duh.) and she decided to take it out on me. "MICKEY IS RIGHT THERE AND YOU WONT LET ME GO SEE HIM! YOU HAVE RUINED OUR ENTIRE VACATION. YOU WANNA DO SOMETHING USEFUL? THEN GO GET MICKEY AND BRING HIM DOWN HERE!!" I ended up walking away a little bit defeated. I just wanted to help them, and I got blamed for something that wasnt my fault. But no, then the part that really did me in, was when I walked back a few minutes later the restaurant manager had grabbed Mickey and Pluto and brought them OUT of the restaurant, AWAY from the customers who had paid the money so their kids could see them, so that this complaining woman could get her way. "The Customer is always right" dictates that all you have to do is complain, and you'll be given anything you want. Normally, when a child throws a tantrum, they don't get what they want. Why does this work for adults?

Anonymous said...

Such is the price paid for running a business in which people pay. Sorry, but I also subscribe to the "old fashioned" notion that the customer is always right.

That's also the core problem with Disney's insistence on charging more for a "plussed" experience. Once through the door, the experience SHOULD be the same for everyone. That's the core concept. Except that it's been bastardized by the idea of "pay more, get more." Pay more (at Universal, not Disney) and don't wait in line. Pay more and get to dress up like a pirate or princess. Pay more and dine with the characters. Pay more and get a better view of the fireworks. Pay more, pay more, pay more. That's what Disney's about these days, and quite honestly after paying $70 to get into a park, I expect some pretty good service.

I hate the idea of paying more, more, and more. Disney's expensive enough as it is, and it's not a surprise some customers get fed up.

That does NOT justify that person's bad behavior. But bad behavior comes with the territory when dealing with human beings. Some are bad, some are good.(Remember "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"?) Hopefully you get trained to deal with that, and it sounds like you handled those situations wonderfully.

The customers shouldn't be jerks, but sometimes they are. And they're still right, until they start violating the rules of behavior. Obviously there are limits, but when someone says to an employee, "You're rude," or, "Could you please stop socializing and pay attention to me" I don't think that's out of line. It's what's EXPECTED. Customers don't get paid to behave well. They should, of course, but they have paid alot of money to be at a Disney park. To expect competent, friendly, well-delivered service is kind of within reason.

Cosplay-chan said...

http://positivesharing.com/2006/07/why-the-customer-is-always-right-results-in-bad-customer-service/

I think this guyssays it better than I could

dean said...

Hey, when you market your company as delivering "Dreams" and "Wishes", you better be prepared to offer that to your guests....and without them having to pay extra. If a guest feels the staff is not behaving accordingly, it should be brought up and I think that Epcot82 did so with respect and professionalism.

At the same time a business needs to uphold standards of civility. An angry or rude customer might simply be a misunderstood customer who is not receiving that "magical experience" and has exhausted every bit of decorum. It's the job of a well trained staff member or manager to calmly find out the truth of the matter and deal with it accordingly, even if it is to refuse to give-in to a customer's unwarranted demands.

Kathleen said...

Interesting. I've been to Disney twice in the last two years, the most recent during the Food & Wine Festival. Both visits were spent mostly at EPCOT, and neither time did I notice the staff acting poorly. Although I can say that the place did have some cleanliness issues, and the rides were filled with problems. Most likely, the staff there were trained specifically for the festival, and they probably had managers looking over their shoulders the entire time. I also wonder how many people are brought in solely for the special events.

Milton said...

This is a criticism against society, not Disney. If you think its bad in Epcot, just wait until you go over to Sea World, Universal, and the other theme parks. Then you'll walk back over to Epcot and hug our cast members. The quality of service in this entire country has gone downhill for the past decade, and Disney is one of the few places left that contains people that can brighten your day with a comment or a smile. They still do exist, even though you will indeed find more of them in the Magic Kingdom.

Disney can't fix this issue, because we are short-staffed as it is, and to remain extra-critical towards the cast members they have employed now will result in even smaller numbers of people working for them.

The issue of customer service extends far and beyond Disney waters...

Anonymous said...

Disney can't fix this issue, because we are short-staffed as it is

That is a damning indictment of Disney. With the billions of dollars they rake in, they can indeed fix this issue. They just don't WANT to.

Tuckenie said...

"That is a damning indictment of Disney. With the billions of dollars they rake in, they can indeed fix this issue. They just don't WANT to."

It's just obtuse to believe it's as simple as raising pay or making it performance based. First of all, Disney has to deal with several different unions and simply cannot do either without renegotiating contracts. The company can and SHOULD treat CP's better but when you're talking about full timers and everyone else there's a LOT of logistics involved with hiring a superior workforce and the cost of it would come from the wallets of our guests.

WDW has over 50,000 cast members. At the state minimum wage alone you have to estimate over $700,000,000 a year for labor costs. Want to take a guess how much it would cost to up pay drastically? Because remember we're not talking about one park. At Disney the whole company gets a raise at the same time! Why? Because that's the rule! Give everyone another $2 an hour and we're talking HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars. So really how damning is it?

To follow up on my previous comment I talked to some of the leaders at Epcot yesterday. Believe me, they are VERY aware of the service issues and that was one of the many reasons my friend was promoted to head training. Apparently somebody, who shall go unnamed, didn't do a very good job before and that may have led to some of these issues. I heard phrases like "breath of fresh air" and "making his presence known" and "kicking a lot of butt" that sound very reassuring. It'll take time to see all the fruit of this labor but I think the guest service at least should be headed in a positive direction. Also my girlfriend and I had a lovely time yesterday. Flower and Garden festival is awesome!

John said...

Give everyone another $2 an hour and we're talking HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars. So really how damning is it?

Have you seen how much they pay Iger? Or their middle-management in Burbank? Cut 500 of THOSE people, and you could save upwards of $80 million right there. Or cut back on that crazy 10-animated-films-in-the-next-five-years "promise" (threat?) and shave two pictures and you could save a couple of hundred million dollars.

Just depends on where Disney's priorities are, and it's clear that they're not in the theme parks.

Anonymous said...

Just got back yesterday and had a mixture. Some CMs were nice...like in Japan. Some were indifferent and talking only to eachother with backs to the guests like in England. Germany was the ultimate test as a lot of them are often down right nasty. At the counter I commented on the price of a soccer ball and she said " I know itz like 'vat the f***'...everything here is zo expensive I would never buy anyzing here. I shoot disney the finger" and she actually shot a bird. Now that's class. I was horrified to hear this from a cast members mouth. Also noticed a lot of big jewlery on cast memebers which used to be illegal to wear. I asked a security guard "what time does the parade start" and he said "there is no parade. This place takes in millions and they are so cheap they cut out the parade years ago. It's just crap." Hearing such things from cast members is terrible. I blame the managers and not the cast memebers really. Where are they during all this?

Brad said...

I never really thought about it until reading this but Epcot really does seem to have a problem with this more than other parks. Certainly none of the parks are immune, but Epcot seems to have the worst problems.

-Brad
WDWForGrownups

Flyme said...

There is no excuse for poor performance of cast members. I work as an air hostess - don't tell me that's not stressful, or deals with a high volume of potentially bored or cranky guests. I can proudly say that there has not been one flight where I have not smiled throughout (even if they do want a glass of water at the most inapporpriate times), and the guest has never been too much trouble. I love my job, I worked hard to get there and although the money is very very poor I value keeping it. Clearly the Epcot customers do not feel the passion. They should be more ruthless at interviews. Less pretty people and more customer focused. There will always be plenty of students/ graduates wanting the experience of working for Disney!

Amy said...

Hi, I am a former Epcot cast member, i worked in ODF (Out Door Foods) and i just wanted to say that i am a big disney park fan so i also like to make sure i am a happy face to guests while im on stage. i care about the show, and more importantly i didnt want someone complaining about me. I do feel the need however to point out that the Ballzac people are NOT Disney cast members, they dont work for Disney but rather ballzac, and they are supposed to maintain the same qaulity of show as everyone else but most of the time they dont care. Also the Coffee Carts and Esspresso carts are also not Disney cast members. and they too provide guests with a sub-par show. One day i was working at the popcorn cart in WS on the promenade (between the towers merch stores) which is across a ballzac and coffee cart, the ballzac people would always come over and talk to me, which they arent supposed to do. and on this one day a girl working at the coffee cart tried to trade me a box of popcorn for a slushee! i was totally surprised, she was very insistent. But i do agree they need to step up the quality of service to the guests, but just remember that they are not actual cast members.
-Amy

Smilee306 said...

I think I saw those same CMs at Soarin in May...I'm glad you said something.