John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

It’s not our fault….


But It Is Still Our Problem

     After an exhilarating day at Disney, your family is leaving Magic Kingdom Park. It is 8:30 pm and you are in the parking lot. All of you are exhausted and impatient to get back to your room to shower and hit the sack. You look at your spouse and ask, “Where did we park?” She looks at you and says, “You’re kidding-right?” Neither of you remembers where you parked. So how hard can it be to find your car? Like 20,000 other people, you came here in a rented white minivan. There are miles and miles of white minivans in the parking lot. Your only option appears to be to wait until the park closes at 11 pm and see what white minivans are left.

     Whose fault is this: Disney’s, yours, or your spouse’s? Should Disney be responsible for reminding you where you parked? Disney, however, is aware that the average family visiting today traveled four hours, they arrived in a white minivan, and before the driver put the car in park, the kids opened the door and were running for the entrance. The parents are too concerned about catching up with their kids to stop and think about where they parked. Disney already knows that tonight a number of families will return exhausted to the parking lot, not remember where they parked, and just want to get back to the hotel.

    What does Disney do? They anticipate a major service defect. And they solve it, even though it isn’t their fault. They have people drive around the parking lots in golf carts in search of families that look lost.

     A Disney Cast Member pulls up to your family and says,

         “Did you forget where you parked?”

     You nod and say,

         “We’re driving a white minivan. Does that help?”

     “Do you remember when you arrived? A ballpark time will do.”

         “About 11:15 to 11:30 am.”

     The Disney Cast Member checks his clipboard and says,

         “Between 11 am and noon we were parking in the Goofy section. Jump in! I will take you to that section, and we can find your car with your remote key.”

And it’s done.

     Was it Disney’s fault that you lost your car? 
     Absolutely not. Is it their problem? Absolutely, yes, because Disney knows that every day several people will lose their cars and potentially be stranded for hours, a situation that could totally ruin the memory of their Disney experience.

     This is a great example of what being zero risk is all about. Being zero risk applies regardless of whether your company is at fault. World-class service companies create protocols to proactively handle their most common service defects, and they train their employees how to extinguish small flames long before they turn into a raging fire. Even if a defect is not your fault, your customer will associate the issue with doing business with you. This is a critical issue for all businesses, at all levels, because when these situations arise, in the vast majority of instances, the employee immediately and instinctively becomes defensive and responds, “It’s not our fault.” Managers and front-line employees alike are shocked that the customer expects the company to be responsible and make it right.

Sorry, but Your Credit Card Was Declined 

    While I was working with The Melting Pot restaurants helping them become zero risk, I discovered that one common service defect that occurs often is that a guest’s credit card gets declined. Ouch! Who wants to tell Mr. Vice President, when he is entertaining two of his best clients, that his credit card was declined? Yes, he’s the one who maxed out his credit card. Is it world-class service to risk embarrassing him by pointing this out in front of his guests and asking for a different card? No! It’s not necessary. To avoid this exact situation from happening, The Melting Pot Restaurants’ Secret Service project team, made up of their top franchisees and corporate executives created the courtesy card.

     The server returns to the table with the check presenter, and the customer opens it, expecting to sign the receipt. On reading the little courtesy note, he can discreetly insert another form of payment, and nobody is the wiser. Brilliant and a customer is retained! If you spend the time on your most common service defects, you can create effective zero risk systems that can go that extra mile for the customer.



“Customer complaints are the schoolbooks 

from which the best learn from”

John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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