by Ray Keating
July 18, 2018

Ever have one of those weeks when it seems like almost every interaction you have as a customer ranges from bewildering to miserable? For me, that happened during the first half of this month.

As I was reflecting on these unfortunate experiences, it occurred to me that none of this would have happened if I were at Disney World. The fact that this thought crossed my mind speaks to the stellar reputation Disney has earned in serving its customers – or in case of the theme parks and hotels, its “guests” – and the positive experiences that I, members of my family and friends have had on the Disney front.

So, allow me to briefly describe my recent anti-Disney customer experiences with other enterprises.

The first occurred when receiving a call from the company with which I have a contract to service my home’s air conditioning and heating units. Back in late April or early May, I dutifully called for an air-conditioner servicing before summer season. Though less than thrilled when told that the first available date would be in early July, I nonetheless took it. And then when that week arrived, I received a call saying that they would have to re-schedule because of a stretch of high temperatures. (Apparently, July heat snuck up on this air-conditioning service business.) The company looked to push me back to a late August appointment. So much for getting an air-conditioning tune up for the summer. I spoke to a variety of people on the phone who were not helpful. Okay, I thought, so I guess it’s time to get a new service provider, but until that happens, I took the August date.

By the way, on the morning of the original service date, a call from a company technician who was on the road. He announced that he would be arriving at my house within the hour. My immediate thought was: Huh? I recovered and responded positively. After he was done with my unscheduled, formerly scheduled appointment, I explained to him what had occurred. He didn’t seem all that surprised, was sympathetic, and in the end, did good work. As for the rest of the experience, it was bewildering and frustrating.

The second poor customer service incident was a trip to a branch of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. I know, I know. What should I expect? Well, it had been a long time since I actually was at the DMV, and I foolishly let myself at least hope that customer service might have improved a bit. It turned out that it had gotten worse. Getting my son a non-driver I.D. card was a long process, waiting on three lines, in a rather grim setting with uncomfortable benches and clerks who seemed to be trained to not consider customer service.

Number three on the anti-Disney customer service experience list came via a phone call from the local cable company. Again, some of you might say: What did you expect? I actually didn’t expect anything. The operator asked why I was considering cancelling my subscription. I told him that I had cancelled my cable TV subscription some two years ago. (I went to DirecTV in order to see my Minnesota Vikings!) That seemed to take him off guard. So, he shifted gears and asked why I was cancelling my telephone service. I replied that I wasn’t and then gave him a quick update on my phone and Internet service with them, adding that there were no plans to cancel (at least not before this call – I actually didn’t say that). This pushed him into further bewilderment, with me tagging along. So, we agreed to end the call and continue with our days.

Now, can you imagine anything along these lines happening while at a Disney theme park or hotel? It would be the rarest of exceptions.

Why is that? Because Disney is known for being laser focused on customer service. Of course, there have been books written and seminars given on Disney and customer service. And we’ll be reviewing and covering much of this at But for now, just consider three points from a quick piece titled “3 Principles Disney Uses to Enhance Customer Experience” written earlier this year by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director at the Disney Institute. The three points that any organization could use to build on for a better customer experience were:

  1. Create an organizational common purpose. The essential foundation on which all other service decisions can be developed, a common purpose is a succinct explanation of what you want the customer experience to be at the emotional level. It represents to all employees what you stand for and why you exist, and it is the primary tool for getting everyone “on the same page.”
  2. Understand your customers holistically. Your knowledge of the customer must extend far beyond the boundaries of traditional service criteria. Truly understanding their needs, wants, and expectations is key to creating personalized interactions. As we have found, listening posts provide a customer-centric mechanism that companies can use to assess the customer experience and immediately identify areas where customer expectations are (or are not) being met and exceeded.
  3. View exceptional service as an economic asset rather than an expense.The return on investment associated with lifetime customer relationships often justifies the short-term costs associated with designing and delivering exceptional service experiences.

Good stuff. Each of the organizations that I interacted with this month should consider these points and act on them. Let’s hope they do. If not, a competitor will – at least in terms of home heating and cooling, and television/Internet/phone services. As for the DMV, well, let’s just say I have my doubts. There are things about government that likely will never change, and even Disney can’t fix.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the two latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel and Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at