Monday, August 31, 2015


Not that kind of accessibility.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Disney on a variety of fronts, which is not worth going into right now. One of the love aspects recently is the Disney Institute, which is their corporate training wing, where they act as consultants to do third party training to help other organizations achieve the magic they are known for. Of course, I think the reason they can give away their secrets is two-fold: first, I don't think they give away all their secrets and second, they know that most organizations can't or won't implement them. It is a significant investment requiring complete buy-in from the top to the bottom and back up again.

In a few recent blog posts, DI has talked about service recovery, which is how to fix problems when something goes wrong. Empowerment is the key to service recovery. For an example, every employee at Disneyland is trained to know that if a guest drops their cheese-filled pretzel or frozen banana on the ground, they can have a new one. It doesn't matter if it's the person who sold it to you or a random dude sweeping up garbage; half-eaten or just licked a little bit of the salt off, doesn't matter. They know the policy - free replacement cheese-filled pretzel - so before you even realize you dropped it, the garbage dude has swept it up and told you to go to the closest stand and just tell them that you need another one. Done. The pretzel person won't bat an eye, because they know the policy, too.

One of the most important points that I think gets lost is that empowerment should actually be empowerment, and not theoretical empowerment. That's where the idea of accessibility comes in. Accessibility means the service recovery solution is readily obtainable. As DI puts it, if a meal voucher is likely to be a recovery solution, "be sure the vouchers are available to employees when needed - not just when the one person with the key to the voucher drawer is present." If the vouchers are not accessible, the empowered employee is going to be less likely to offer that solution, and the unhappy customer is unlikely to want to stick around and waste time waiting for someone to find the key if that solution is offered.

That's also a good way to hide behind fake empowerment, where you tell a customer you wish you could give them something and if it was up to you, you would, but you know that the next level up will deny the request. You might even tell the next level up to deny the request when you put it in, just so you can say you tried even if it wasn't that hard.

Assuming you're not going down the fake empowerment road, the last thing you want to do is tell the person that you wish you could give them a particular solution but that you have to talk to your manager first. This is especially true if you know the customer deserves the solution but there is a chance management will turn down the request. That kind of empowerment is theoretical empowerment - your manager tells you that you are empowered, but there's no solid proof that your empowerment actually exists.

Even if you know they will back you up, it's annoying that everyone's time is being wasted - the customer, the employee, and the manager. How much is all that time and goodwill worth? Probably more than a cheese-filled pretzel.