Should theme park employees talk about the competition?
Published: July 10, 2014 at 10:17 AM
A Twitter follower raised that question this week in asking if Disney World cast members were barred from talking about Universal Orlando's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. Plenty of theme park fans responded that they had talked about Diagon Alley with Disney cast members, and we've not seen any evidence of a formal statement by Disney to its cast members on what they can or cannot say about Universal. (If you are a Disney cast member and have seen any such memo, please email us a copy! Anonymity assured, as always.)
Obviously, with tens of thousands of cast members working at the Walt Disney World Resort, a visitor likely will find some Disney employees who won't talk about Diagon Alley when asked, either because they feel uncomfortable talking about the competition or they simply don't have anything to say. But as many other visitors have found, plenty of Disney cast members are happy to answer — to the best of their abilities — whatever question a guest has to ask. That's just good customer service.
Let's flip this question, then. Instead of asking if theme park employees should talk about their park's competition, let's ask if theme park employees should try to answer their guests' questions. The response to that should be a pretty clear "yes," shouldn't it?
As we've written before, neither Disney nor any other business has any responsibility to promote its competition. So no one should expect any Disney cast member to start a conversation about Diagon Alley or anything else at a competing park. But answering guests' questions is a different matter.
When I worked at the Walt Disney World Resort, our training from Disney University was simple: Don't tell guests "no." If a guest has a question, find the answer, even if that question doesn't involve Disney. If a guest wants to know what time the Shamu show is, or what's available in Diagon Alley, it's just good customer service to find out and tell that guest.
With so many guests carrying smartphones, it's simple enough for cast members to refer guests to the relevant App Store to download the apps for those competing parks, where they can find all that information at their convenience — and to remind them to download Disney's app while they're at it, too! It's also fair to remind guests that those competing parks are, in fact, competing parks, and that their Disney World tickets will not get them admission there. (Some guests don't know, and just assume that any theme park in Orlando is "Disney.") Providing answers to unasked questions can be great customer service, too.
Guests won't think less of Disney if its cast members answer questions about Universal. Quite the opposite: it reflects well on Disney when its cast members answer questions even when Disney doesn't stand to make buck from the response. Great customer service is work that creates value for a guest. If you're working only to create value for your company, you're not providing great customer service. But smart business managers know that if they and their employees provide great customer service, their business often ends up making more money in the long run than companies that put themselves ahead of their customers.
So if you work at a theme park, or manage people who do, don't be afraid to answer questions about the competition. Welcome that; embrace great customer service, and eventually, it'll be your competition that's answering more questions about you.