Disneyland questions

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.

One Response to “Disneyland questions”

  1. Vardibidian

    I have found that one of my valuable resources in my current job is the ability to say the same thing, in the same words, in the same tone, over and over. To stick to the script, basically.

    For the most frequently asked questions (to coin a phrase) it can take me months or years to find the best form of words to phrase the answer, but once I have something that seems to work, I try to repeat it exactly to every person. In particular, directions inside the building—it turns out that many more people get where they are headed if I begin with “on this floor” than if I put that information later in the directions. Policies, too, have yielded over time a particular phrasing (and intonation) that seems to work, and once I settle on it, I don’t improvise. This is surprisingly difficult for many people who work the desk.

    Two caveats: I do need to be able to improvise if the person isn’t satisfied with my first answer, and I need to be paying attention to see if that person isn’t satisfied, and that’s not one of my strengths. Because people are in fact different, one to another, the Best Phrased Answer will not convey the information to absolutely everybody. If it really is the Best, it will satisfy almost everyone, but not quite everyone. Alas.

    Second caveat: I am aware that I may be fooling myself about my Best Phrased Answer to people who ask about directions outside the building. All I really know is that I’ve come up with the phrasing and intonation that results in people leaving my desk in fairly good spirits and not coming back. I found out recently that for years I’ve been sending them to the wrong location for a particular kind of administrative service. I guess nobody ever came back and complained (at least while I was here) and the office I was sending them to never called and told me to stop sending people to them. I can almost always tell when someone gets where they want to go within the building, but once they leave… It’s possible that I’ve been sending people to their hideous doom, and not to the ID office at all.



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