When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to work a semester at Walt Disney World.
It was great. A few hundred students from around the country would come in and work for three months, while also taking classes to learn about a different aspect of the operation.
At our final orientation, the lady giving the class said, “Disney World is known as the happiest place on Earth, and you’re going to see so many people having the time of their lives.”
“But the truth is, too, that in surveys conducted in virtually every country around the world, this is the number one place that people say they would like to see before they die.”
“You will see a lot of people in wheelchairs and with obvious medical needs. But many people want to come here while they are still well enough to enjoy the park fully. They may not show any outward signs of illness or disability yet.”
“When you see a guest in a wheelchair or with a disability, we want you to be as helpful to them and make their experience as pleasant as you possibly can. But we expect you to give the exact same level of treatment and care to every guest you encounter. Because the truth is… you never know what people are going through.”
That little talk has remained with me from that day forward. What profound advice.
Never assume you know what your customers want. Ask them.
Use online surveys, feedback cards, even the good old suggestion box. Always make it easy for your customers to tell you what they want (and what they don’t want).
Then, all you have to do is make it and sell it to them. Everybody wins.
Years ago, I made up this little quote based on the Disney World talk that I try to keep in mind when I encounter people who are being rude, angry or obnoxious:
“Never assume the worst in people, just assume they’re going through the worst right now.”
Easier said than done, I know, but it does work. Give it a try next time.
You never know what people are going through.— Disney World Instructor