Give the customer what they need; not what you think they want
By Brian Anderson
Vacation this year made me think occasionally about customer service, as the site of this year’s family trip was Disney World.
Not just because Disney is known for progressive customer service policies and empowering its “cast members” to solve guests’ problems (case in point: one of the table bussers at the Magic Kingdom noticed two of the children in my group weren’t eating their macaroni and cheese lunches, inquired to us about it and agreed the dishes didn’t look too appetizing for a 4-year-old. She immediately brought them PBJ sandwiches free of charge). But because in a way, I viewed my own 4- and 6-year-old children, and their four cousins also on the trip – as the real customers, and myself, my wife and my brother-in-law and his wife as the providers of customer service to them as much as the Disney employees. (I can refer to ride operators and waitstaff generically as “cast members” only so often.)
As most parents taking kids to a Disney park surely know, it is really more of a “working vacation” for the adults, as a Disney vacation is all about the kids. We had the informal goal of broadening their horizons and exposing them to some really cool rides, shows and other larger-than-life experiences that attractions on the Disney scale can accomplish. As a parent, it seems your most fulfilling enjoyment during such a vacation comes from seeing the looks on your kids’ faces as they experience the “magic.”
While I could devote an entire column to how Disney could improve its experience for families dealing with massive crowds, long lines and ridiculous heat and humidity, what I kept coming back to was wondering if the kids needed to experience all the “larger than life” attractions to have the best time during the vacation. And for my wife and I, as their de-facto personal customer service reps, was it better to have them suffer through 40 minutes in line for a 5-minute attraction they may not remember for a lifetime, or was it better to avoid the boredom of the lines for more immediately available rides and attractions they seemed to enjoy almost as much without the all the waiting? After all, they seemed as happy swimming and playing with their cousins at one of the two pools available to us as they were on the rides.
Is there a customer service lesson in here for the insurance producer? I’m not sure – I’m still trying to exit vacation mode, deal with catch-up mode and get back to life insurance mode. But if there is, I would think it might be don’t waste your limited resources to provide more – extra perks – than the client even wants. Especially if they are perfectly happy when you concentrate on providing them with what they do need.
I’m confident my kids will remember getting soaked on Splash Mountain, but pretty sure they’ll also remember bonding with their cousins over improvised pool games far away from the crowded theme parks. Looking back, I’m glad we didn’t overdo it by leading the kids to wait to get on every great attraction at the expense of some quality pool time.