I recently got to do something I had never before (and probably never will again) experienced: Walt Disney World during the holiday season. Having done that, finally, I can safely say that I will never do that again. This isn’t because I had a terrible time. Quite the opposite, in fact. WDW will always have a special place in my heart, and I don’t know if anything could ever change that.
And I will return. There is too much to love about WDW to never walk its grounds again. The next time I do return, however, will be during a much less busy time of year. I have never seen such ridiculous crowds. It was truly remarkable.
There was one plus to being stuck in such seas of humanity: Seeing customer service at its finest levels during the most trying of times, a sight that I would describe as inspiring.
Similarly to how Disneyland is referred to as “the happiest place on Earth,” WDW is dubbed along the same lines as “the most magical place on Earth.” The greatest threat to destroying that magical experience is allowing your patience to be eroded, a common issue among customers.
And I saw it at WDW in spades. We had lunch at a restaurant in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, just outside of the Haunted Mansion, and the line was, literally, out the door. Hunger and long lines are a perfect recipe for customer grumpiness. And when that is combined with the fact that EVERYTHING has a line, that grumpiness will continue unabated.
That’s the thing that customers either fail or refuse to understand: This is the busiest time of the year, for not just theme parks, but for all walks of the service industry, from delivery companies to retail establishments. It’s just that time of the year when the demand for these services explodes, and a little understanding into that fact will go a long way toward improving your experience as a customer. Prepare yourself for the wait, and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if there isn’t one.
But what can the service industry worker do to not only make things more pleasant for the customer but also survivable for themselves? Look to the Disney Cast Members.
First thing, keep a level head. Find some way to remind yourself that you can only control so much of a given situation. When you service tens of thousands of people a day, stress is going to come into play. Yet, they are among the most friendly, accommodating, and helpful people you’d ever hope to find. Finding some place of peace will aid in that.
Here’s the caveat: I know this is going to be the most difficult thing to do, since customers will not make that easy. A customer who feels he has been wronged or merely inconvenienced can be the most vile, inhuman creature on the planet, and having to deal with them in that situation is miserable. So, while not impossible, it will be incredibly difficult.Secondly, be as friendly as you can be. I know many of these customers will not deserve your kindness, but sometimes all you can do is grin and bear it. Now, I’m not telling you to just be a doormat for them. All I’m saying is it’s illegal to slap them. I’d rather fake politeness to a jerk than spend a night in jail.
Thirdly, do what you can for them within the scope of your job (and what you think they deserve, without harm to your job). Again, I’m not saying to bend over backward for a customer who’s just being a jerk because they can. Just remember it’s illegal to hit them. And it’s good to have a job.
Whatever leeway your job affords you is valuable tool at your disposal to be used at your discretion. If someone needs directions, you can give it to them and it might mean the world to them. But if they ask you for something that you are, for whatever reason, unable to provide, don’t feel bad about it, even if they give you grief. That’s one thing my current job has taught me: You aren’t a fireman and it’s not your job to put out fires. If someone has a problem, I apologize and direct them to someone who can do something. Cast Members do the same thing.
My biggest takeaway from my trip was how to deal with the stress of volume. I can’t imagine what it’s like dealing with that many guests on a daily basis. But I know what it’s like dealing with twice the normal number of packages in the same window of time as normal, and you have to find a way to deal with it. You can’t control the volume of customers or items, but you can control how it affects you. Can it overwhelm you at times? Sure. It definitely has overwhelmed me before.
The key is finding a way to push through and keep forward momentum. My method is to bite off small chunks at a time, finish one neighborhood before worrying about another. Package by package, house by house, street my street. Forget about the whole stone, deal with the chips. That avalanche can bury you so easily if you allow it. Take breaks as often as you can and allow yourself to ability to process and refresh, or else you will crumble under the weight.
My other takeaway is blue milk is delicious.
Stay strong this holiday season, comrades!
-The Retail Explorer