What is great customer service?

The week before Labor Day, we took the kids to Disney World for the first time.  I hadn't been to Disney, other than a dinner event at Epcot, since I was a teenager.  Always trying to learn something new, I was curious to see the famous Disney customer service in action. When I received my welcome package in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised to see that if I put a special orange tag on my luggage, I could check my bags at Newark Airport and they would be delivered to my hotel room at The Contemporary.  Not only did this eliminated one of the major hassles of airline travel, but it was free.  Wow!

But then a strange thing happened on the way to Disney.  When we landed in Orlando, we had a hard time finding the bus to the airport.  In my mind, the signage was to blame.  Then, when we found it, the lines were a little long and they asked for our identification several times.  Managing three children, the carry on luggage and the identification process was not a walk in the park.

When we arrived at the hotel, the computer system was down and we couldn't check in immediately.  On top of that, the kids were now very hungry and growing impatient.  Disney was not off to a great start.

However, the computer issue was quickly resolved.  We checked in and given a box of wristbands called MagicBands, one for each of us, that was basically our room key.  The box had our individual names and looked like a present, which delighted the kids.  In addition to acting as a room key, the wristband also contained our tickets to the park, our "fast pass" information, and allowed me to charge things to the room throughout the hotel and the parks.  I read afterwards that the MagicBands project was an investment of over $1 billion by Disney. Pretty cool.

Throughout our four days, I was amazed at the level of care and expertise each Disney employee expressed.  Rather than look at the map, I would simply ask an employee for directions.  Everyone, from the employees working the rides to the garbage handlers, greeted me with a smile, gave me explicit directions and wished me a "magical" day.

On top of that, Disney provides a free mobile app for my iPhone that the concierge encourage me to use called My Disney Experience.  This app manages the entire theme park and dining experience.  It provides real time updates for wait times on each ride, and also tells you which rides are close to you at any particular moment using the phone's GPS.  You can also update your dining reservations, as well as your "fast pass" selections.  The app was completely free with no advertisements.  Disney clearly spent a lot of money on an app that simply enhances the customer experience and it paid off.

As our vacation was coming to close, I thought back on my initial frustration at the airport and the hotel.  I realized that even though the experience got off to a bumpy start, there were plenty of Disney representatives who were consistently trying to make it better and they succeeded.

Problems come up in every walk of life.  I realized that great customer service isn't about delivering a flawless experience.  It's about how companies face those problems head on for their customers and do whatever they can to enhance the overall experience.

Honestly, I cannot wait to go back to Disney.  People say it's expensive.  I say it's worth the price because of the experience.  And, they promised that the app was going to be better next time I am there.  I find it hard to believe, but when you wish upon a star...