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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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Managing expectations the Disney Way

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I'm writing this with a Disney hangover after spending six days in the kingdom of magic and make believe with a zillion people from New York and New Jersey on school vacation - totally worth it to spend time with my niece and nephews experiencing the magic with them. Disney has long been recognized for their stellar attention to customer service and the overall customer experience. One thing stood out to me on this trip as we ventured from one experience to the next. Disney does an amazing job at managing expectations lessons we can apply to our businesses.

My nephews are 7 and 9, so we went on a lot of rides a lot! At each ride there is a sign that displays the wait time. This is critical information for families with little ones who are trying to survive their adventure. When the sign said five minutes we got right in line! If it said sixty minutes, we considered if the wait was worth it. Two hours or more we moved on to something else! My sister-in-law even used an app on her iPhone to check wait times at rides throughout the park. This way we weren't schlepping the whole herd of kiddos across the park only to find a line that was too long for our patience level.

Disney provided us with information that allowed us to make informed decisions about the activities we chose. This put us in control and we knew what to expect when we got in line - a much better approach than NOT telling people how long the wait would be, which can only lead guests to become frustrated. Let's apply this to a business. Customers appreciate knowing how long the wait will be whether it be for a table at a restaurant, a service call to install cable or service on our vehicles. If you own a business - especially a service business you will score major points when you let customers know how long they will wait for service. Disney also scored points by moving the lines along faster than the wait times indicated. Under promising and over delivering is a much smarter strategy rather than saying the wait time will be 60 minutes and it becomes 90!

Disney also managed expectations well by informing riders what to expect during a ride and cautioned riders who were pregnant, who dislike dizziness, claustrophobia, etc. to reconsider their choice. The list was even longer for the Space Mountain ride but my nephew Hunter and I went on it despite the warnings. We survived and forged a bond like no other as we continue to talk about how scary that was! Your business may not be in the business of sending human beings through dark tunnels at what feels like a million miles per hour, but informing customers about what to expect is a very good thing and certainly limits your liability if they are well informed beforehand. This applies especially well to experiential tourism businesses such as tours, rides and rentals and to medical services doctor, dentist, etc.

Managing expectations and informing customers about what to expect is a great way to deliver exceptional customer service. Disney gets this and does it very well. Whether you're running a business or serving others through your work, let them know how long they will wait for service a return phone call or an appointment. Inform them of what they can expect before, during and after their service whether you are repairing vehicles, providing consulting services or strapping customers in for a ride they will likely never forget!


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