Don’t Judge the Question By Its Cover


[Author’s note: I wrote this post back in 2007 and had not been to Disney World in quite some time at that point. I visited the park with my family in 2018 and paid specific attention to this topic during that trip. I’ve edited the post accordingly -cw]

I recently had the privilege of participating in a Disney Leadership Institute. What a remarkable way to look at your company through the lens of excellence.

Of specific interest to me was the guiding principles that make Disney a world-class company. Their commitment to the customer is fascinating and their never-ending pledge to making the experience the best it can be is quite impressive.

One story in particular stuck with me. It illustrated a powerful way to leave a lasting impression and add value to the answers you give your customers.

Three Most Frequent Questions In The Park

The presenter was sharing the top three questions that employees, or “cast members” as they call themselves, receive at the Magic Kingdom on a regular basis.

The top three questions were:

  • ‘where are the bathrooms?
  • ‘what time do you close?’
  • ’what time does the three o’clock parade start?’

It was that third question that got my attention.

Now, as he said, they’re Disney. They could just answer with “it starts at three o’clock”.

But Disney has a higher standard and they look beyond the question.

What’s Behind The Parade Question?

They know the person asking has a lot on their mind and may not even realize what they said.

For instance, it could be a family who has saved up for a year to bring their family to the most magical place on earth for the first time.

They know how hard it can be to get kids to be where they need to be.

They know that the families walking their streets seeking to love or relive the magic that is Disney, even if only for a day or two.

In short, they know the question that was asked is not really the question that needs an answer.

The Disney Answer

“It starts at three o’clock and you’ll want to get to Main Street around 2:30 so you can pick the perfect location to watch.

If you want a secret tip, stand in front of the ice cream shop because the door is kept open and you’ll feel the air conditioner hit the back of your neck as you’re waiting in the sun.

Also, when the parade is near, it’s the perfect location to step of the curb to get a photo with Cinderella’s castle in the background so when you’re showing off your trip to family and friends, you’ll have some really great pictures.”

It’s an amazing answer and it takes a lot into consideration. It not only makes the person feel special but goes a long way to enhancing the overall experience. The cast member might have given the same answer to 15 other harried dads that morning, but each one is leaving the exchange feeling a bit of the Disney magic.

And the best part: while I was there recently I went to that exact spot. They were not only right about the benefit of the air conditioning and view, but I saw a few dads with the “secret info” there along with me.

What’s Your Magic Answer?

Your business may not be peddling magic or fantasy or escapism. It may be more like plumbing supplies, kitchen design or lawn are.

And every week, you talk with customers that ask what seem like basic questions to you. But behind the basic question is an opportunity to impress.

The truth is, in your business, you may never know the real origin of the question. But you do know a lot about your customers and your industry. Enough to know what seems like a silly, simple question may be much more. It may be a request for reassurance due to bad experiences with others, stress to get a project finished, or the anxiety that comes from trying something new.

And it may be an opportunity in disguise. An opportunity to connect and enhance the customer experience.

How can this help your business?

Think of those routine questions you get from customers and find a way to answer them beyond the obvious. Find a way to provide insight, value, and expertise through the answer.

Doing so will not only show you care but will go a long way towards enhancing loyalty and building word of mouth referrals.

And set you apart from the competition – earning you more opportunities for business.