Ya’ gotta have H.E.A.R.T. – Handling Customer/Guest Problems

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that most of us have a heart. Well, at least we have a heartbeat.

Recently, as part of my Disney Institute course, we were asked to have heart. This came from a guest speaker, Matthew, who works with Disney reservations. If you have ever booked a room, a dinner or park tickets, you were probably handled by one of the teams under Matthew’s care.

There are some out there in the service industry who may be breathing but I question whether or not they have a heart. What am I talking about? Here are a few simple steps we all can use when we are handling a complaint from one of our customers/guests or when handling returns. This is not something new. These principles are used in businesses around the world. Some may change the language but the principles remain the same.


1. Hear – Are you listening to what your customer/guest is saying? Sometimes, when a difficult situation arises, they just need to vent. A lot of times it is something out of your control. Maybe they are the ones at fault. It doesn’t matter. Simply listening to what they have to say may reveal the truth about some other underlying problem. Generally, there isn’t a problem with the product. It’s a problem with the expectations.

2. Empathize – Do you know the difference between empathize and sympathize? I admit I had to look it up in order to be able to make this point. Empathy is the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes” if only for a brief moment. You’ve been disappointed before and for whatever reason, you’ve “been there, done that” . . . let your customer/guest feel that too.

3. Apologize – How many times have you heard or read about a situation where the person said, “All I wanted was an apology from _____” and it would have made everything okay? It doesn’t matter if you are the one to blame. A sincere apology can quickly resolve an unfortunate situation. “I’m sorry that (xyz product) did not meet your expectations. Let’s see if we can find something that better suits your needs.” That’s just one example of a sincere apology but does not place the blame or fault on anyone. But this is a great lead in to . . .

4. Resolve the situation – If it all possible, a resolution should happen on the spot. We should have done everything up front to prevent a problem from occurring. Hopefully you have the authority and duty to handle almost any situation that comes through your door. If not, then you were not properly prepared (fault of management). Are you thinking it’s not practical to be prepared for every situation? I say it is. If you are properly trained in every aspect of customer service, there should be no reason why every problem should end with a successful resolution. I would bet that most companies do not properly train their employees before turning thm loose.

Either way use all the tools available to resove the issue with your customer/guest as quickly as possible.

5. Thank your customer/guest – Are you thankful that they had a problem? Are ou thankful your customer may have strange taste buds? No. What you are doing is thank them for bringing these issues to your attention. You are thanking them for the opportunity to solve the situaion.

A genuine thank you can mean all the difference in the world.

There are more things you can do and you can read about it here. My thanks to Jeff Kober, writing on Mouseplanet.com. One of Disney’s favorite taglines is this: “It’s not our fault, but it is our problem.”

Are you ready to assume responsibility for resolving the problem?

Hope so. Come on . . . have a heart!


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