It goes without saying that the Disney experience of going above and beyond to exceed a guest’s expectation is something that all travel agents should strive to emulate. As a retired leader from Walt Disney World, I look back at the many years that I was with the company and the fond memories working with the guests that I met, and a lot that have become lifetime friends. When I used to talk to cast members about how to build positive interactions with guests, I always referred to these special moments where I could “Surprise and Delight”.
One of the most memorable moments that I used as an example was about a family that I met from Pittsburgh, PA. Their only son Zachary, who was no more than 6 years old, talked about his love of the Country Bear Jamboree attraction and that he had been on it over 50 times since the family started visiting The Magic Kingdom. His parents shared that this was always the first attraction that they would visit when they arrived and sometimes that they had to see it over five times in a row. We had a great time chatting about this and all our favorite attractions. Our conversation ended with them having dinner in my restaurant, Pecos Bills. But that wasn’t the end of our conversation that night. I kept an on eye where they were seated and then I proceeded to contact an attractions and merchandise leader to create a moment that Zachary would never forget. After they finished their dinner, I greeted them at their table and told them that Big Al wanted to see them at his show. Zachary’s eyes lit up and when I presented him with a coon skin cap from Big Al and told him that Big Al wanted to do a show for only him and his family, he screamed and was beyond excited. When we entered the empty theater, the host greeted them all by name before the show started. They were all in the front row singing away with Zachary dancing. When the show ended, Zachary ran up to me and gave me a big hug and said this was the best. His parents had tears in their eyes, and each gave me a big bear hug. The next thing that they told me; I was not ready for. They said that this would be Zachary’s last visit to The Magic Kingdom, as he had a terminal illness and he had less than six months to live. I immediately felt like I could start crying myself, however I held it back and greeted Zachary again and he asked if he could watch the show again, and I said yes. I let them experience the next show by themselves and went to get my business card with contact information. I met them at the exit and got another hug from them all, and secretly gave his parents my information. We stayed in touch and Zachary sent me a homemade card of thanks, and one month later I got a call from his parents telling me that Zachary had lost his battle. Even though I am retired from Disney, this family will always be in my life and the “Surprise and Delight” moments that I made for Zachary will live on with me and with his wonderful family.
The example that I wrote about was by mere chance and took a turn that I would have never expected. This is what a “Surprise and Delight” is all about; taking the time to do something for someone that is a true surprise and not expected. In today’s world, the job of a travel agent has become harder since consumers can research their entire vacation online and the options for planning travel are fiercer than ever. The work of a travel agent from the first moment of contact starts and what they do going forward will make the difference in whether they win this customer over and they become a “Raving Fan” or not. A travel agent’s contact doesn’t have to stop after they complete the sale. Why not carry it through their customer’s visit and “Surprise and Delight” them with one of the Mouse to your House’s memorable gift baskets. From the “Snacks to Go”, “Build Your Own”, or even a holiday specific gift basket, a travel agent can continue to “Surprise and Delight” their customers further. It doesn’t have to end with the end of the sale of their travel package, it continues with them throughout their trip. I can tell you that their customers will remain “Raving Fans” and word will spread to their family and friends. Yes, the concept of “Surprise and Delight” may sound very simple, however it’s impact on people’s lives will remain a lifetime.
Rick McMasters – Retired Leader from Walt Disney World