Be Our Guest. Be A Guest. Customer Service Implications

“Be Our Guest! Be Our Guest!
Put our service to the test
Tie your napkin ’round your neck, cherie
And we’ll provide the rest!

“Be Our Guest” is not just the name of Disney’s newest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, it’s a maxim for providing great customer service.

Be Our Guest – Disney’s Newest Restaurant

One of Disney’s most beloved films, Beauty and the Beast, speaks to the topic of hosting others. Indeed, its signature song, “Be Our Guest,” is not only an anthem for great guest service at Walt Disney World, it’s now become a hugely popular restaurant. Guests are making reservations months ahead for formal dinner reservations, and standing in long lines for a more kiosk-style lunch at the “Be Our Guest” restaurant. Why? Because they think they are going to experience something different than most guests experience in standard Disney theme park restaurants–a chance to experience great guest service in an amazing fantasy setting.

But providing great service, whether at a Disney theme park restaurant or in the real world, takes more than a magical ballroom or a wish before an enchanted mirror.

At “Be Our Guest” restaurant, it isn’t enough to provide the most beautiful setting, the service must match it as well.

A Heritage of Guest Service

Disney has a deep-rooted history of inviting its customers to “Be Our Guest.” It is their culture to refer to customers as guests, and never as customers. It is also appropriate to use the phrase hosts and hostesses when referring to those who serve guests on the front line. Even back in 1975, Wall Street Journal noted of Disney’s Customer Service: “You can see more respectful, courteous people at Disney World than in New York in a year.”

The concept is simple: Customer service works best if you treat your customers as if they were guests in your home. Think about it. If you had a special guest come into your home, you would do things differently than you normally would. You would fix up the house or make a special meal. You would make them feel as special as possible. Consider these words found in one of Walt Disney World’s original employee orientation manuals:

“First, we practice a friendly smile at all times with our guests and among ourselves. Second, we use friendly, courteous phrases. “May I help you”…”Thank You…”Have a nice day”…”Enjoy the rest of your stay”…and many others are all a part of our daily working vocabulary. And above all, we use “please” with any suggested directive to a guest, such as “please step through the turnstile”…and “Please move all the way forward.” But remember, smiling and friendly phrases go together…they cannot be separated.”

Whether you’re dishing fine French cuisine or simply hot dogs on at Casey’s Corner, you are still inviting everyone to “Be Our Guest.”

Be A Guest

Some say that Disney isn’t as guest-friendly as in the days that quote was written. They say that the customer service is not as note-worthy. But I wonder if part of the problem doesn’t have something to do with the guests themselves. Perhaps we’ve only been addressing half of a two-sided experience. There’s also the notion in the concept of “Being a Guest” of acting like a guest. When you visit someone, when someone asks you to “be our guest”, you tend to be on your best behavior. You don’t put your feet up on the coffee table, and you use your best table manners over dinner. It’s not just about treating people as guests. It’s a little bit about being a guest. Even in the older days of Disney, guests tended to dress up more when they visited the parks.

The notion of “Be A Guest” came to mind yesterday when I conversed with my daughter after work. She works part-time as a retailer at a specialty clothing store in one of the premium outlet malls in Orlando. On our way home from work, we talked about some of the management practices put in place, and how those policies made it difficult to work there. But then her face lit up and she said, “I could never leave my customers.” I pointed out that the customers there are pretty much the same as the customers at any other retail store in that mall or over at Disney. She disagreed. Her store has lots of children, and lots of visitors from Latin America–particularly Brazil. She makes over their kids, and she just adores talking to each one. The outlet mall handles a huge number of international visitors.

I asked if she had the same experience with visitors from Europe or with guests from other places in North America. “No. Not usually. I can tell in the first few moments of the conversation, that it’s not going to be easy to interact with them. They don’t give me eye contact, and they don’t seem to want to interact. Many times they are quite demanding, if not rude. I’m here to help them. I don’t know why they feel they have to behave that way. Those from Brazil seldom do.”

Relative to getting great customer service, it left me thinking: “How often do I conduct myself as a guest?” I would suppose that if I want to be treated more like a guest, I have need to behave more like a guest than a beast.

Guest Service, Regardless

In many of the customer service programs I deliver, we ask the question, “Is the customer always right?” That’s the maxim of many service providers. My retort is, “No. The customer is not always right. But they should always be treated with as much respect and dignity as possible.” That’s all part of the maxim, “Be Our Guest.”

Of course, it’s difficult to be treated with respect and dignity if you as the guest don’t bring any to the table. That’s our challenge in any customer service profession: Invite others to “Be Our Guest.” It’s also our opportunity as a customer in any location: “Be a Guest.”

Truth be told, I’ve heard countless people express their frustration working with Brazilians during their stay at Disney. I don’t think the Brazilians hold the corner market on being considerate. But I do think they are more receptive to a friendly gesture. And my daughter, though in her first real job, is pretty good at what Disney would refer to as being “assertively friendly.” She simply takes the initiative to provide great customer service.

John Hench also spoke of the concept that when a park is kept clean, it tends to foster an attitude of keeping it clean and in not dropping trash. I think the notion works in terms of providing great guest service. Create a setting where people feel like they are welcomed guests–not just customers–and they might behave differently. That may be the secret to providing great service? Go out of your way to do so. Build an environment that makes people not only feel like a guest, but want to act like a guest.

And if you as a customer want better guest service, you might do well to take the initiative of behaving more like a guest.

Do you agree or disagree? What has been your experience serving others? What has been your perspective as a customer? Do you have to “Be A Guest” to “Be Our Guest”?

 

If you love these kinds of ideas around customer service, you may want to check out my Magic Kingdom Disney At Work app available on the iPhone. You may also want to see my latest book, Lessons From Epcot, available as an iBook. All of these contain great lessons in business, leadership and life.

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