« Alternate-reality teen comedy | Main | Person name or place name? »

Disneyland questions

| No Comments

A year ago, I saw a video made by Disney, some kind of management-training sort of thing. It had various interesting parts, but the one bit that (more or less) stuck in my memory was was the part about Disneyland employees ("cast members") answering questions.

IIrc, they said something to the effect that even though the employees hear the same questions over and over again, all day, every day--"Where's the bathroom?" "What time does the 3:00 parade start?" "Where's my car?" "Where's [ride x]?" and so on--that the employees are trained to treat each question and questioner respectfully and to answer cheerfully, even if the visitor is hostile and grumpy and tired. Because even though it's the fiftieth time the employee has heard the question that day, from the visitor's point of view it's the first time they've asked.

This was a useful new paradigm for me. When I'm dealing with customer-interacting people of any sort (not just at Disneyland), I now try to remind myself that even though my problem and situation feel new and unique and special to me, chances are good that they've encountered it fifty times before, probably mostly from people who were hostile about it. And if the employee is brusque about it, I try to remind myself that they're probably tired of hearing the same questions over and over.

I say I try to remind myself of these things, because in fact, I'm terrible at it. Because my problem is unique and special, dammit! This is the first time that I've ever had this problem, so it stands to reason that it's the first time anyone has ever had this problem, and it's probably the worst problem ever to face a human being.

I encounter this from the other side, too. One person makes a mistake with a submission at SH and I roll my eyes and get a little annoyed, especially if it's a mistake we explicitly discuss in our guidelines. Two people in a row do it, and I start to get mad. When three people in a row make a similar mistake, then friends, I may think it's a movement I start letting my frustration show in my response to the third person--even though their mistake was no worse than the first one. They don't know that they're the third person in a row to do this; I shouldn't be treating them as though they've just made the same mistake three times in a row. But I do. But I try to prevent myself from doing this.

And I see similar kinds of situations play out in all sorts of other areas. For example, people like police dispatchers and tow-truck drivers and parking-ticket issuers presumably spend a lot of their time dealing with hostile and upset members of the public, most of whom believe their situations to be unique, and most of whom are saying much the same things as other people in the same situation. Whereas to the tow-truck drivers and police officers, it's all part of their daily job. I'm guessing that on encountering the tenth person that day who screams at you for doing for your job, it can be hard not to react as if that person has screamed at you ten times. And yet, it's also understandable, from another point of view, that the person who's screaming at you doesn't know--and probably doesn't care--that they're the tenth person who's done that today.

So I think that something all these situations (and many more) have in common is that it can be very easy, from either side, to lose track of (and/or to just not care about) the experience that the person on the other side is having.

Post a comment